Explosive new details about the Adelaide Crows’ infamous 2018 pre-season training camp have emerged, including that players were greeted by masked men wielding fake automatic weapons and that past psychological traumas experienced by players were used against them.
The Age AFL reporter Sam McClure spoke to several former Crows players, many who declined to be named, who shone light on the Queensland camp run by consultancy group Collective Mind.
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Immediately following Adelaide’s painful 2017 grand final loss to Richmond, the camp was intended for players to become more resilient - something the Crows’ coaching staff at the time believed they needed after the 48-point drubbing at the hands of the Tigers.
It’s well known now that the camp did anything but what it was intended, fracturing the players, leading some to quit football altogether, while club and AFL reviews resulted in key personnel departing the Crows.
Former coach Don Pyke later said he regretted the camp, while assistant coach Scott Camporeale and head of football Brett Burton also left the club in the wake of the camp.
Among many of the troubling revelations included in McClure’s report were:
Forward Tom Lynch collapsing on the first day of camp, and organisers refusing to allow him to get medical attention until players forced them to
senior players greeted by men wearing army fatigues and carrying fake assault rifles
episodes of childhood trauma and domestic abuse, which players say were revealed to Crows staff in confidence, were used against them, in some cases by their own teammates as part of camp exercises. Some players believe this information was disclosed to Collective Mind without their consent.
The Crows have declined to comment on the story, as have the aforementioned former employees of the club.
The impact on the players McClure spoke to has been profound.
“We were a team and a group of players in the peak of our powers that was ready to win a premiership,” one unnamed player said.
“But our bond with the club, with each other, was torn apart at that camp.”
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The most troubling aspect of the report were stories of an activity in which a player was harnessed to a tree, with the only escape being a combat knife placed roughly 10 metres away.
Players were required to crawl towards the knife to free themselves.
Each player was allowed to select two teammates for moral support as the remaining nine teammates in each group were instructed to pull against the harnessed teammate, all the while being encouraged to hurl personal abuse and insults.
"They clearly didn't have an understanding for the cultural sensitivity of what was going on.@sam_mcclure speaks about his eye-opening story which details what actually happened on that infamous Adelaide pre-season camp.#9AFLSFS | Watch @channel9 pic.twitter.com/5LaZWrN3PO
— Footy on Nine (@FootyonNine) July 5, 2020
It was during this exercise that information players thought they had given to Crows officials in confidence was thrown back at them.
The Crows have continued to insist they did nothing wrong by hosting the camp, though former coach Pyke said in 2018 that the camp had ‘missed the mark’.
“It’s important we acknowledge we made some mistakes — that is what humans do,” Pyke said.
“In our drive to improve in our program both in our physical and mental side, in hindsight, seeking gains, maybe we pushed too far. And that I regret.”
Adelaide are anchored to the bottom of the AFL ladder after a disastrous 0-4 start to the delayed AFL season.