Another former Crows star has opened up on fresh allegations over the infamous 2018 camp, including the “damning” claim the club has never acted on a welfare report written by Crows club doctor Marc Cesana.
Josh Jenkins, a 147-game veteran at the club took to radio station SEN on Friday with a statement on his recollections from the camp.
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Reading out a prepared statement, Jenkins said he had written it years ago because “I knew this day would come” and “I’m here largely because no one has taken responsibility for what went on and the acceptance that what went on was completely unacceptable.”
It comes after former star Eddie Betts shared details via an excerpt from his upcoming autobiography The Boy from Boomerang Crescent, detailing the horrific four-day camp.
At the end of his statement, Jenkins said he other players sat with Cesana, who assessed their welfare and “wrote a lengthy report off the back of his dealings with us as players and people”.
“No one has ever acted on that report – which I know is damning,” Jenkins said.
“The report must see the light of day. It’s the only example of a medical professional who had day-to-day dealings with the people and players who were involved.
“He was concerned about us.
“He expressed his disappointment to me about what had happened, but never disclosed the details of what he’d discussed with other players, but I presume it was similar.
“Hence why the report needs to see the light of day.
“I recall, during one meeting, our doctor expressing in front of the entire playing group and most of the staff that what occurred on the camp was in his medical opinion totally unacceptable – and I know the report captures that.”
Jenkins said there were “red flags” before the camp and he sought assurances his childhood trauma would not be used against him, particularly after a teammate was “removed because of some personal trauma he’d recently experienced”.
“Hearing him removed because of his own personal trauma was immediately alarm bells inside my head,” Jenkins said.
“As Eddie stated in his book, I also took a phone call with the supposed counsellor and – again, expressed my desire that my unusual upbringing was of no significance to me as an athlete or teammate.
“I – in a naive bid to allow these people to improve me – explained to this person how I was raised by my non-biological grandmother and have had no meaningful relationship with my parents.
“My childhood is a source of shame and pain but also pride.
“I stated more than once I wanted none of my upbringing to be used or even spoken of during or after the camp. Something which was promised to me – but in my view, a promise that was broken.”
Jenkins detailed the “harness ritual” at the camp, where the players were “scolded with abuse and physicality so they’d be physically and emotionally worn out.”
And he said the trauma from his childhood was among the abuse hurled at him.
Upon returning from the camp, Jenkins said “the club completely fell apart” and the players were “sworn to secrecy”.
He added it was the beginning of the end of him at the Crows — he was traded to Geelong at the end of 2019, playing two matches for the Cats.
The full Josh Jenkins statement
What I am about to say – and what Eddie Betts has stated in his book – has been four years in the making.
I’m not overly proud or pleased to be here, but here we are.
I’m here largely because no one has taken responsibility for what went on and the acceptance that what went on was completely unacceptable.
This is my recollection of the camp. I wrote much of what I am about to read years ago because I knew this day would come.
Now I want to start with pre-camp …
In mid-to-late 2017, prior to the Grand Final and – obviously – the camp, we began role-playing activities, none of which really had any substance. Most was just stuff you could laugh at post-sessions. And often we did. The thrusting and screaming was dumb and mind-numbing, but we are resilient young men, we can easily swipe that away as nonsensical and pointless.
But, you’re desperate to atone for a lost Grand Final, so you buy in because you’re asked to and you want to believe it’s the last hurdle you need to get over to achieve premiership glory.
After the Grand Final, during the following pre-season, maybe December 2017, we were told we’d be going on an intense camp to the Gold Coast.
Before our Christmas break, some of the core group was asked to stay back after a meeting to decide who were going to be the 10 players and two coaches joining in on the most intensive version of the camp.
The sales pitch was an immediate red flag to me. The sales pitch was this: “This will be the scariest thing you’ve ever done but the safest thing you’ve ever done.”
Immediately, we all thought of physical activities, I was thinking sleep deprivation, starvation etc. and how I wish that were the case.
I resisted big time. I recall us going around the circle and accepting the challenge while a couple of players needed to be withdrawn due to injury issues as well as one player being removed because of some personal trauma he’d recently experienced.
Hearing him removed because of his own personal trauma was immediately alarm bells inside my head.
I consider myself a matter of fact person, a realist, I’ll call it as I see it … to a fault. Some may accuse me of being too cold and calculating (my wife would even accuse me of that on occasion and I thank her for her support the whole way through and she remains devastated and furious at the way our time in Adelaide ended).
But I had to be true to myself and true to my mates.
It all smelt terribly and I knew in my heart we were going down a bad path.
But off the back of a Grand Final loss, when I personally had played so poorly, I knew only had so much leverage, if any.
After around 40 minutes of resistance, I agreed to be a part of Group 1 – in part because I knew it was a month or so away and I had time to work back channels to get myself removed.
No joy. I could not get out. Group 1 was for me.
As Eddie stated in his book, I also took a phone call with the supposed counsellor and – again, expressed my desire that my unusual upbringing was of no significance to me as an athlete or teammate.
I – in a naive bid to allow these people to improve me – explained to this person how I was raised by my non-biological grandmother and have had no meaningful relationship with my parents.
My childhood is a source of shame and pain but also pride.
I am proud I am where I am today despite any potential hurdles thrown my way as a young person, but I will always have the pain of not having a family to lean on in tough times or to celebrate with on celebratory occasions.
Even as an adult, small things can remain with you. I recall the awkwardness I felt when I didn’t have anyone to invite into the rooms for my debut jumper presentation. No matter how far you go, some things can always nibble away at you.
I explained my upbringing had probably led me to being more sceptical and isolated – with a determination to do things my way — for better or for worse.
I also stated I was proud of the person I was and that in no way was my childhood of any relevance to anything I was doing as a professional athlete.
I stated more than once I wanted none of my upbringing to be used or even spoken of during or after the camp. Something which was promised to me – but in my view, a promise that was broken.
From there, we went to the Gold Coast.
This is the camp.
We arrived on the Gold Coast knowing something big was in store.
The secrecy and lack of info was astounding.
Our welfare manager – who was receiving 90 per cent-plus approval ratings in the AFLPA surveys – was iced out of discussions and planning as well as everything afterwards.
My belief of that is largely because she is a female but I am happy to stand corrected on that.
She fought the good fight for us players and I will always be grateful for that. She no longer works at the Crows and she no longer works in the AFL.
You know all the detail about fake guns, macho men, people dressed in costumes asking to be called Richmond. None of that phased me.
I was thinking … you guys know that I know those AK47s are not real.
But as we began to do camp activities things went from dumb to disgraceful.
We sat under a tree and witnessed a man unknown to us go through the harness ritual.
The reasons why he was on the harness are up for conjecture, but I heard comments thrown his way – including some he offered himself – about sexual misbehaviour and womanising.
Following that person’s harness ritual I got up from under the tree we were all sitting under – fronted Heath Younie and Don Pyke and said, “we lost a game of footy, we are all good people, this is rubbish and I think we should all leave”.
After a heated conversation between me and camp co-ordinators, and mostly to honour the greater good, I was convinced to stay and watch a few of my teammates go through the ritual first.
The youngest member in Group 1 went first.
Each player was scolded with abuse and physicality so they’d be physically and emotionally worn out.
This is where I’m happy to try and explain why some rituals were confronting for some and “nothing to see here” for others.
In my view, the boys who had had a more “normal” or traditional upbringing without any real trauma or tragedy in their lives had very little to be poked and prodded about apart from the general back and forth about being a better teammate. player and person.
Those – like me, Eddie and perhaps others – had experienced different things that were more raw when focused on – especially when we’d been assured, essentially promised, that nothing like this would be raised.
I specifically asked for assurance pre-camp that nothing regarding my childhood would be raised or used on the camp to spur me on or to break me down.
It’s my belief this promise was broken. And I’m not certain I’ll ever forgive those involved for that.
Nor am I sure anyone has even truly taken responsibility for what went on and why it was allowed to happen.
When my turn on the harness arrived, I was fighting against three or four teammates who would then let go of the rope so I would fall to the ground – all of this was at the request of a man who was named Wolfgang, or at least that was what we were told, and I guess he was some type of bush-psychologist and during the harness rituals, his word was gospel.
Looking back, the “rite of passage” as it was labelled was strange.
Strange to the point there was also a man on a set of drums who said he was drumming in time with the beat of his heart.
At different stages, comments were thrown at me while on the harness in regards to the way I was raised and why I act like I do at the club and on the field.
Some were from teammates being prompted to verbally jab me and some were from camp facilitators who had obviously shared intel on me as a person.
I’m choosing not to reveal some of those comments because people who care about me are listening but I can say for sure those comments were fed to the facilitators and I believe some of the info was passed along from people at the club.
I recall some of the barbs thrown at Eddie – and others – and recall glaring at one of our coaches who quickly picked up my emotions.
Everyone went through the ritual and on the last morning, we had a relaxed discussion with the facilitators – which is also when we were told how to discuss what we’d done with our teammates and family members.
I distinctly recall the role playing on what to say to partners and teammates.
I only include that info to explain how misguided this whole situation was. How could you possibly allow someone of that nature to be in control of high-performing professional athletes?
That’s why I was so strong on the doctor and welfare manager being involved. They would’ve put a stop to this and I think the club knew it, hence their lack of engagement.
Post-camp … the club completely fell apart.
We were sworn to secrecy even from teammates on different versions of the camp.
Myself and a coach stood up after one meeting and demanded we tell each other what happened and the CEO or Football Manager (I can’t exactly recall who) stood up and said we were unable to because the club had signed confidentiality agreements on everyone’s behalf.
I said, “I did not sign a damn thing”.
We continued to undertake activities like berating our most senior players for failing us on the biggest stage. Something that made me feel uncomfortable at the time and still does.
I believe there are things you can never unsay.
As fractures were beginning to become gigantic, portions of the playing group were beginning to say they were no longer willing to participate in the leadership program.
On one occasion when we met as a large group (some staff included) the outcome was to exclude the Indigenous players from the program.
I stood up and said, and I recall this vividly, because I knew it was the beginning of the end for me as a Crow: “You cannot be seriously considering isolating the Indigenous portion of our playing group in favour of this program. A program that we have already largely stated we wish to be removed, we have lost our way.”
On countless occasions, players told me of their discomfort and unwillingness to be involved anymore and much of that messaging was left to me and a select few others, which of course caused friction between me and the club.
In the end, when I knew where my future was headed, I looked forward to these conversations – which I regret because my time as a Crow has been significantly soured.
I left the Crows labelled as problematic, an argument starter and, in one piece of media I saw labelling me as “cancerous”.
The only cancer at the club was the idea that taking us on a psychologically unsafe camp that was supposedly going to make us better parents, siblings and teammates. It’s the worst idea I’ve every witnessed or been a part of in my adult life.
I suppose overcoming the loss of your senior coach to a senseless murder and making the Finals two months later and making a Grand Final two years later was not enough.
I guess in a weird way, it’s made us better because we’ve finally been able to reveal the truth about the nonsense we were forced into.
And today, I can finally hold my head high.
Crows fans, consider this, my words are not an attack on the logo or the club. I love the Crows and what it provided my family and I am so proud my name will be on the No. 4 locker forever.
But you cannot do things like this to people and not be held accountable.
The last thing I’ll say is this …
There is a report from our club doctor Marc Cesana, whom I sat with on countless occasions where he assessed my welfare and did the same with others …
He wrote a lengthy report off the back of his dealings with us as players and people.
No one has ever acted on that report – which I know is damning.
The report must see the light of day. It’s the only example of a medical professional who had day-to-day dealings with the people and players who were involved.
He was concerned about us.
He expressed his disappointment to me about what had happened, but never disclosed the details of what he’d discussed with other players, but I presume it was similar.
Hence why the report needs to see the light of day.
I recall, during one meeting, our doctor expressing in front of the entire playing group and most of the staff that what occurred on the camp was in his medical opinion totally unacceptable – and I know the report captures that!
Today is a good day and a really sad day.