Chris Rattue is a sports columnist for the New Zealand Herald.

Chris Rattue: Give Aaron Smith a disability lesson

All Blacks halfback Aaron Smith. Photosport
All Blacks halfback Aaron Smith. Photosport

A witness to Aaron Smith's disgraceful behaviour at Christchurch Airport regrets going public. But I know someone whose opinion really counts who is glad the great All Black halfback's sexcapade was exposed.

As sometimes occurs, the victims are left to their own limited devices while the perpetrators gets support aplenty.

The Smith and his lady friend created plenty of victims when they charged past a couple with a young kid to use a disabled/family toilet for sex. Smith and friend had no problem letting themselves in, but the husband and wife outside had little idea what they were letting themselves in for by tackling a star of the national religion.

A huge reason why any anti-Smith outcry is fully justified is that he disabled a disabled toilet. Initially, I thought this would be a natural focus of the story. But its importance seems to have got lost in a crowd of red herrings.

I've received a stack of emails on this subject, and the range of opinions is vast. One stood out though, from a disabled person who said the pressure on the witnesses was "pathetic". He was also upset that the disabled aspect had been largely ignored, as he perceived it, by the media. Here are some excerpts from his email.

"I was born with a severe physical disability and for some years I have been confined to a wheelchair. I wonder if during the time (Smith) and his friend were 'using the toilet' there might have been some disabled person who had a burning desire to use it? It was an insult to the disabled community.

"When someone is caught using a disability car park when they shouldn't their usual excuse is 'I wasn't there very long.'

"They don't realise, and don't care, that while they were parked there someone with a disability might have been searching for a park. It is the same sort of ignorant, callous disrespectful behaviour shown by Smith."

Smith, no doubt, faces a heavy fine in addition to the one game ban imposed on him by the All Blacks leaders.

Maybe part of Smith's 'punishment' should be a directive to work with disabled people, to get a look into their lives and what obstacles they face at places like airports.

Travel can be stressful enough for able bodied people, especially those with children. Smith might even get to tell us what he found in this work, a far more useful act than hiding away in shame. As a form of restorative justice, this part of the punishment will be no punishment at all.

And finally, a message to the two witnesses, who say their marriage is now under strain. You were put in a very unfair, unexpected and unusual position. Those pathetic bush lawyers arguing that Smith and his friend had their privacy breached somehow, having taken over a disabled toilet, need their heads read and values questioned.


The All Blacks are tearing opponents apart, yet there's a trend for critics to keep picking the All Blacks apart. Yes, the opposition is ordinary. And yes, free expression is always healthy so it is good to have dissenting voices.

But this is certain - rugby is not an easy game to play well, yet these All Blacks are always amazing to watch. I'm no All Black sycophant, but this is the time to give oneself a stern talking to. I don't want to miss being in the moment of enjoying this unfolding era of excellence by taking sport too seriously, by analysing too much.

So they aren't perfect, and in the quest for attack make mistakes now and then. Well, try watching some robotic NRL league teams with an obsession about mistake free footy. It often isn't pretty (and even less so if you are at the ground rather than watching on telly).

A lot of rugby is no longer of any interest to me - cue the contrived Super Rugby competition which I hate with a passion. But these All Blacks have me falling in love with rugby again.

There can be nothing but the utmost respect for their ambitions, the types of players they are choosing, the speed and skill of the attack and defence over 80 minutes, and the sheer wizardry of what Beauden Barrett, Ben Smith and co. are doing in pressure situations. Even Owen Franks has joined the party. These are incredibly exciting times.

The standout moment which said it all in Durban came when Barrett saw a possibility from distance, and new test forward Liam Squire appeared to read his mind with an amazing offload in tackles to set up a long range try. To the very end, Steve Hansen's All Blacks had magic on the brain, and the ability to carry it out. If this was Brazilian football, we'd be dancing in the streets.


Saturday night's league test between the Kiwis and Kangaroos represents another insult to New Zealand fans. Playing the game in Perth is a joke. It means the game will finish on New Zealand TV around midnight, which is no way to engage and attract the most fans, especially younger ones. League is a non-event in Perth, yet a city which is Aussie Rules crazy is getting more consideration than New Zealand. Aussie rules alright, as in it still rules league.


What a great start for the Breakers, who won their opening ANBL match against Melbourne United under new coach Paul Henare. But why did the former Breakers superstar Cedric Jackson, a much-loved central figure in three title winning teams, mysteriously quit for the Melbourne club? Jackson's skills will be missed. But maybe there is a new resolve and depth to this Breakers squad to more than make up for his loss.


Tiger Woods has the most famous case of yips in the history of golf. It's not that the second greatest player of all time can't face a putt - he can't face an entire tournament. Having announced his return from back surgeries, he then backed out of a low key tournament in California. There's more. Tiger, who last played in August 2015, also quit a tournament in Turkey next month.

Tiger at his best was phenomenal. He ranks alongside the likes of Muhammad Ali and Michael Jordan in the way he transcended not only his sport, but sport in general. He was a rare beast, a worldwide phenomenon. But Tiger hasn't just lost his game. He's lost his nerve. It's time to pack the clubs away. Tiger is finished.

- NZ Herald

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