There's nothing easier for sports followers to revel in a player's dumb choices - become ghoulishly fascinated by a once-treasured figure's fall from grace.

Aaron Smith found that out the hard way last year when he went from being one of the nation's most-liked All Blacks, to one of the most derided and judged. We all know why.

But the story of redemption, always more compelling and usually more enduring, doesn't always get the air time or appreciation it deserves.

The climb back to the top is never observed with the same attention to detail as the fall to the bottom - and Smith did hit the bottom last year when his private life fell apart and his professional world collapsed in the space of just a few weeks.


That he brought it upon himself is beyond dispute, but still, the time has come for anyone clinging to the events at Christchurch Airport last September, to let them go.

It is time for Smith to be acknowledged as having paid his penance. He can't be judged for the rest of his career by a mistake he made in 2016.

The measure of anyone is surely not the mistakes they make but the way they respond? And who can say Smith hasn't been chastened by his mistake?

He has, by all accounts, come out of the experience, a wiser, better person. He's attended counselling, sought advice from a number of influential figures and tried to rebuild relationships that were obviously damaged by his crass actions.

He is sorry for what he did and not, unlike others who have been found in similarly uncompromising positions, only sorry that he got caught.

It takes character and moral fibre to rebuild broken pieces and it's never as easy at it looks.

Smith will play his 100th Super Rugby game this Friday and that seems like exactly the sort of occasion for him to be embraced and celebrated. That seems like an excellent reason for everyone to fixate not on his past, but to think only now of his future, which is considerably brighter now than it was a few months ago.

Smith, speaking earlier in the week, revealed how he wished he'd stayed away from the game last year after he was outed. Looking back he can see that it was a mistake to carry on playing.

But that clarity suggests that he's through the other side of his problems. That he's reached a better place in his own head about who he is and what he's trying to achieve. That's the key - no player can fulfil their potential if they aren't feeling good about themselves and the direction in which their life is travelling.

Smith deserves a break now - the chance to be revered for what he brings on the field and for his passing game and the simplicity of his offering to be celebrated for the world class package that it is.