Belinda Feek is a NZ Herald reporter

NZ sport bodies need to offer more support to athletes, relationship expert says

Aaron Smith should feel "disappointed" in himself after his public indiscretion a relationship counsellor says. Photo / File
Aaron Smith should feel "disappointed" in himself after his public indiscretion a relationship counsellor says. Photo / File

Sporting bodies - especially rugby - in New Zealand need to re-evaluate the way they introduce their athletes to the public spotlight, a relationship expert says.

And Shelley Anderson, of Home and Family Counselling, says All Black halfback Aaron Smith should take a long hard look at himself after his "inappropriate" actions in a toilet cubicle tryst with a woman who was not his partner.

Anderson said she hoped Smith was feeling "incredibly disappointed" in what he had done.

"On many levels what he did was completely unacceptable and as an ambassador for New Zealand too, for which he was in the role of at the time."

However, she also said NZ Rugby needed to reassess the support structures around how young sportspeople deal with being thrown into the limelight.

"As young people, they're well known and become famous and how are they supported to manage that? It must inflame egos and I kind of wonder whether the rugby profession needs to do a bit more about how they support their young players who quickly rise to fame and fortune; that these are some of the risks and some of the situations they might find themselves in and how they will manage it. I'm sure [NZ Rugby] is clear about their expectations of behaviour."

But it's not just rugby players who are having indiscretions, but male sportsmen from many codes, she said.

"I don't imagine it's just in the rugby industry really. Young people quickly rise to fame and it seems to be predominantly males where we hear about these things happening.

"How is the sport profession acknowledging the risk around this and doing something about it at their level? I think there's a part for everybody to play."

She questioned what could be happening for Smith to want to behave the way he did - "he was an ambassador for New Zealand at the time and what he did was inappropriate and obviously he's going to have quite serious consequences both personally and professionally."

She said incidents involving rugby players were becoming more prolific in recent months and the sporting bodies needed to address why it was happening.

As for whether Smith and his partner, Teagan Voykovich, could stay together, that was up to them to work out in private.

Suzi Wallis, counsellor and family therapist, said despite Smith's public indiscretion the couple could remain together - but they'd need to put some work into it.

She said the pair would need to be as honest as possible and have their own support person to "vent" their issues.

"Remorse goes a long way but actually blaming isn't helpful and that's where people come unstuck, they put all the blame on one person, maybe him, but actually that's just going to back him into a corner and he's likely to come out fighting."

- NZ Herald

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