Caroline Wilson lashes AFL boss Gillon McLachlan over ‘pathetic’ response to Adelaide Crows camp, Mark Ricciuto under pressure

Veteran columnist Caroline Wilson has lashed AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan’s apology over the Crows’ pre-season camp, calling the league’s response to the saga “pathetic”.

Despite Eddie Betts’ powerful revelations regarding what took place on the 2018 camp in the Gold Coast, the AFL did not issue an apology until Betts called for one during the week.

The AFL boss eventually fronted the cameras to apologise, but did so in a short interview on the Seven Network, rather than a press conference, and Wilson was not impressed.

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“For Gillon McLachlan to take four years … to actually apologise in a stand-up at an airport with Channel Seven in an exclusively arranged interview is frankly quite pathetic,” she told Nine’s Footy Classified.

AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan issued his first apology for the camp four years after the fact in a short interview last week (Getty)

“Why the AFL did nothing then – I’ve been saying it for two years – still baffles me.”

Wilson also took aim at what she deemed a “cover-up” from a number of senior Crows staffers in the months following the camp, including football director Mark Ricciuto, calling the response “astonishing”.

Ricciuto is the only member from the Crows’ 2018 power structure remaining at the club, with key decision-makers such as chairman Rob Chapman, CEO Andrew Fagan, football boss Brett Burton and head coach Don Pyke all having left the club following the camp.

Ricciuto has come under pressure since Betts’ revelations last week and his response to the indigenous great’s comments, where he said “hopefully Eddie (Betts) is getting over” his experience at the camp.

“My prediction would be that Mark Ricciuto will be here until the end of the year and then serious pressure will come upon him,” Wilson said.

Mark Ricciuto remains in the same director of football role at the Crows that he had at the time of the camp (Getty)

“Not pressure from himself; he’s digging in. It’s just impossible to me (that he survives the saga). He was a staunch defender of Brett Burton, who was his man, who was one of the key instigators of the camp.

“The comments he made last week were so bad from a Crows point of view. He caused a lot of angst within and without the club. My view is he is not going to survive.”

Port Adelaide great Kane Cornes and Essendon legend Matthew Lloyd both suggested it was untenable for anyone associated with the implementation of the camp to remain at Adelaide.

Cornes used examples where Ricciuto had praised the likes of former Adelaide coach Don Pyke and ex-Collingwood president Eddie McGuire for stepping down amid controversies, suggesting he should take his own advice.

AFL great can’t believe Crows saga

“It feels like they need clean air. Mark Ricciuto himself has applauded those that have stood down to give clubs historically that clean air,” Cornes said.

“It’s going to be really difficult for the club to get that clean air while Mark Ricciuto is still there.”

“They can’t in their right mind have said you’ll give information and it’ll be used against you. Whoever heard that and allowed for that to happen must go,” Lloyd added.

The Age’s Sam McClure also blasted the response from a number of key stakeholders following the camp.

“For the AFL, the AFL Players’ Association, and elements of people at Adelaide, to come out and say (they) actually had no idea that this stuff was going on … they either knew about it and they deliberately lied or they didn’t know. I’m not sure which one’s worse,” he told Footy Classified.

The fallout from Adelaide’s 2018 pre-season camp still continues four years later (Getty)

McClure called the criticism of players such as Betts, Josh Jenkins and Bryce Gibbs for only speaking years after the fact a case of “classic victim-blaming”.

“The last people that are responsible for what went on at that camp are the players,” he said.

“It is absolute garbage to think that we could sit here and label any of those players as part of the problem. And yet when people come out and speak the truth, and showed great courage, by the way, we suddenly turn around the responsibility on them.

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“If the AFL Players’ Association wanted to know what was going on at that camp they could’ve asked, because from where we sat it wasn’t that hard to find out.”

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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