Former Adelaide Crows coach Don Pyke has apologised to the players involved in the club’s infamous 2018 pre-season camp, calling the ongoing saga “a sad time for us all”.
The fallout from the camp contributed to Pyke’s time with the Crows coming to an end in 2019, and he has since landed a job as an assistant at the Sydney Swans.
Speaking for the first time publicly since his former players Eddie Betts and Josh Jenkins offered raw accounts of their respective appearances on the camp, Pyke said he was saddened by the impact of the camp on his players.
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“To Josh and Eddie and the Adelaide players and staff who were involved, I apologise for the camp. It’s saddened me to see they’re feeling that way. I acknowledge the hurt and I’m sorry,” he told reporters at the Melbourne Airport on Saturday.
“I’ve been in contact with both of them (Betts and Jenkins), haven’t had a chance to speak to them yet but have spoken to a couple of the other guys. Clearly it’s a sad time for us all. I’ll reach out to some other guys in the next couple of days.
“Clearly we’re always reflecting, there’s a couple of components there – firstly with Eddie and Josh, the fact they feel personal information they provided was used against them, that’s disappointing and unacceptable. I’m saddened by that, sorry by that.”
Like Adelaide’s football director Mark Ricciuto did earlier in the week, Pyke also indicated the camp was implemented with good intentions by those involved.
“Clearly we entered as I’ve said before, a space to improve from a performance viewpoint. And that space had some challenges and we got it wrong, that has to be acknowledged,” he said.
“Whether it was our planning, whether it was our assessment, the execution or the follow-up or the debriefing following the events of the camp, clearly it was an error and I’ve apologised to the playing group before and I apologise again.
“I respect Eddie and Josh for speaking out and saying their piece about how they felt about the camp. It’s put it on the agenda and on the table for discussion. It’s important we have the discussion to try and deal with the issues that arise from that.
“If there’s still people with ongoing issues we support them and we try and actually move on from this. It’s a challenging time for all of us but one that we’ll get through hopefully.”
Pyke’s comments came as a third former Crow, Bryce Gibbs, offered his own account of the camp.
The 33-year-old was traded to Adelaide at the end of 2017, with the pre-season camp his first at the club, and said he did not object to being placed in “group one” due to being a newcomer.
“I had just arrived at the club and the biggest thing for me was to earn respect from your teammates and build relationships as quick as you can,” he told SEN SA.
“We then had to decide who was going in group one, and for me, they explained that that was going to be the most intensive group and for me, I saw it as an opportunity to fast-track relationships with these guys and new teammates of mine that I was going to be playing with going forward – that’s the way I looked at it.
“I jumped at the opportunity to be involved in the most intense group, as I said, to try and fast-track my relationship with these guys.”
Like Betts and Jenkins have stated, Gibbs said he took a call from a counsellor to discuss his childhood experiences, saying he thought it was “a bit of a red flag”.
“During this interview process, I didn’t really disclose too much, I was pretty lucky enough to have a pretty good upbringing, a really great childhood which I’m very grateful for, so I didn’t have a lot of trauma so to speak,” he said.
“Even still knowing that, I was pretty calculated in what I was telling this person, I didn’t trust them, I didn’t know them, and I thought it was unusual to be doing that leading into a camp.”
Gibbs said he was disappointed in himself for not speaking up about the camp in the months that followed.
“Probably the most disappointing thing for mine was the post-camp and the wash-up when we were reflecting on it and guys started to speak up on those who had issues with what had happened, talking about their experiences and that this wasn’t great,” he said.
“When I reflect, this is where I feel really disappointed in myself, this is when I started to take a back seat, watching guys stand up and say, ‘This is not on, we need to address this, we need to tell people what happened’. They seemed to get shut down pretty quickly.
“It did fracture the playing group, it fractured relationships in the football department, players lost trust with members in that football department.
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“We tried to move on where that was obviously the wrong thing to do, and that’s probably why we’re speaking about it four years on.
“If it was handled correctly and people had taken responsibility, put their hand up and knocked it on the head a lot earlier when it happened – it still would’ve been hard as people still went through what they went through, and people will still carry some emotional scars from it. But at least it would’ve been dealt with in the proper manner then and there.”
A SafeWork SA investigation in 2021 cleared the club of breaching health and safety laws, while an AFL investigation in 2018 determined the Crows had not breached any rules.
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