Time to take a breath over Smith tryst

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Aaron Smith fights back tears as he speaks to media at the All Blacks hotel in Durban after news broke of him being sent home from the tour following an act in an airport toilet in Christchurch.
Aaron Smith fights back tears as he speaks to media at the All Blacks hotel in Durban after news broke of him being sent home from the tour following an act in an airport toilet in Christchurch.

Not everyone who has judged Aaron Smith after his tryst in a disabled toilet with an air hostess, has crucified him.

There will be many rugby playing males whose view will be "you bloody legend".

What will the NZRU's independent review into the rugby culture make of these people, whom they are surely going to come across during their project?

Will they be surprised? Shocked? They shouldn't be.

Rugby has progressed a heck of a lot from the days of segregated clubrooms, with the men "over there" and the women "over there".

But it remains - by virtue of the very nature of the sport - a male domain.

And sometimes you don't have to scratch too far below the surface to find the "old boys club" mentality and misogyny.

The rugby culture by and large is overwhelmingly positive. It provides a sense of community and family.

But it is and always will be "blokey". Sure, teams will opt to no longer hire a stripper to perform for their team at an end of year "Mad Monday".

But as long as strippers and rugby players exist in New Zealand society, the two shall meet. And at some point, they will clash again.

Along with Smith's tryst, we have also had the Losi Filipo assault case, in which he was controversially discharged without conviction for serious assaults. And there are the sexual allegations involving a Mid-Canterbury player.

The NZRU has to be seen to react doing something, because of a run of unseemly events.

But is this a spate of incidents? It's probably not - strip out the rugby players from our court system in the past few years and you could probably cry "crisis!".

Why should a particular sport define these individuals though, in a country with the highest proportion of rugby players in the world?

A small country - globally we are essentially a two-island town in a goldfish bowl that, thanks to social media, magnifies our lives and indiscretions.

Social media has become not only the biggest method of communication between us, but the fastest way to break news.

Potentially, thousands of people could know about an indiscretion such as Smith's before he has sat back down with his mates.

Because all it takes is "click", "post" and then "boom".

Was what happened to Smith gossip, or news?

It's both - news because of the unusual circumstances.

And the story gains extra momentum and coverage because he is an All Black, and in a relatively young country with a turbulent but short history, we tend to accord worship and god-like status to All Blacks.

But it is the gossip factor online that inflates much of the pressure now placed on public figures.

Online, you don't have to pause for breath, or to consider your opinion.

It is a conversation, you throw your view out there where it can explode, casting fragments around the world.

Which is what gives us much to like about the independent review looming.

It is a considered, sensible, analytical approach - a step back from the knee-jerk judgmental hysteria online.

And we should be prepared to accept that one of the findings of the review is that it is not rugby that has a problem but New Zealand, as a society, that needs to take a good look at itself in a toilet mirror and ask some tough questions.

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