AFL Players Association CEO Paul Marsh has admitted his organisation did not know most of the information revealed in Eddie Betts’ book regarding the infamous Adelaide camp.
Betts’ book revealed disturbing details regarding what he was put through at the 2018 camp, including sensitive information being used against him.
Marsh said they weren’t made aware of the significance of these issues at the time.
“We first became aware there may be an issue around this camp from the media and off the back of that, we started contacting players to see if there was anything to this and certainly the initial feedback we were getting from players was that there was nothing to it and in fact, a number of players had a view that it was a really good camp,” Marsh told SEN Breakfast.
“But it continued on and then we started to get bits of information, and some of it we’d heard before through media, and you can’t always rely on that information, but getting (info) from the players was particularly challenging.
“Some of the really disturbing stuff that Eddie’s said in his book, I’d certainly never heard before and the other stuff, the meeting he’d had with the psychologist and unpacking some really personal issues and misusing that, and that was the intent of getting it in the first place, was news to me and I think that’s the most disturbing part of it.
“But even some of the other details around the camp I certainly wasn’t aware of. It’s concerning and we want to get to the bottom of if other players have had similar experiences.”
Marsh adds that he spoke to Betts at the time of the camp, and multiple times since.
“We spoke to a number of players and I don’t want to get into the content of conversations … I certainly spoke to Eddie at the time and I’ve spoken to him at other times including as recently as yesterday,” he said.
“It’s not that we haven’t had conversations and I’m certainly not saying we didn’t know there was a level of angst about this.”
Should the AFLPA have tried harder to find the details in the last four years?
“Whilst we tried (to get to the bottom of it), and I’m open to a view from some that we could have tried harder, I’m not saying that everything that could have been done was done, but I think we certainly tried to get to the bottom of what happened with the players and I don’t feel as though we did,” Marsh said.
“When you then play that forward to an investigation when you don’t actually know what happened it’s very difficult to know whether you’re satisfied with that.
“Players I think were silent on this issue for fear reasons, some of the players had good experiences, so we understand why that happened, but it’s made this issue quite a difficult one.
“Maybe with Eddie having now spoken about it, it’ll empower other players to speak about it and I think that’s our role, to see if players want to speak about their experiences.
“I think that’s a really fair question and it’s certainly a question we’ve been asking ourselves.
“It’s not the first time we’ve seen a group of players go through something where they’ve kept the information in-house.
“You ask yourself why that is, I think players love their clubs, they love their teammates and speaking out against the club is almost akin to speaking out against your family and so there’s that.
“There’s also a real buy-in to a team mentality and I think the way this particular camp was sold in was ‘this is going to help us with the extra one or two per cent between winning and losing the premiership’.
“There was an element of ‘we don’t want anyone knowing about this’ and that was drummed into the players and I think Eddie made that pretty clear that they don’t want to talk about it. That included to us, clearly.
“We continue to strive down that path. There are lots of issues where players come to us and we have to work through the issues with the industry, and in this case, they didn’t.”
Former Melbourne captain Garry Lyon gets the feeling the AFLPA isn’t quite the refuge for players that it potentially should be.
“(The AFLPA) has evolved now into a massive organisation that gets paid big, big, big money by the players essentially,” Lyon said following the interview.
“I just get a sense, I don’t know whether the players feel comfortable – that should be a refuge – when something is going on in your footy life, or is related to the game, you should just be absolutely comfortable to go there and just say ‘listen this is what’s going on, I’m not sure about this, should this be going on at my club’ and I just get a sense that it’s not quite there.
“Anecdotally, that’s sort of my feeling. I might be wrong.”
Essendon premiership player Tim Watson added: “Do you think that’s maybe because players think their allegiance is to their club and to their teammates and that the AFLPA is a separate organisation that may not necessarily be the best place for them to seek some form of solace and maybe the trust isn’t there in the organisation because they don’t have the relationship with the organisation.”
“Deep down they all feel the people who have my best interests at heart are the people that I represent and the football club that I represent.”
Listen to the full interview with Paul Marsh here