Opinion: Spare me the moral outrage over Aaron Smith

Aaron Smith (Getty Images)
Aaron Smith (Getty Images)

Spare me your moral certitude and please don't reach for the cliché box. I don't want to hear about how rugby players are role models, and don't remind me that you think New Zealand Rugby has to add "social worker" to its duties of running the game.

Life is so crystal clear for those who sit on the sidelines; those of you who like nothing more than to whip rugby for New Zealand’s societal woes. Rugby is no better or worse than the rest of us.

Take any large group of New Zealanders and you'll find fantastic people and complete dickheads; people you'd want your children to grow up to be like and others you'd cross a street to avoid.  

Don't tell me young New Zealand men who happen to be good at rugby are automatically role models. And yes, I know they are put up on pedestals by the Rugby Union, but that's because NZR are keen to maximize their commercial value. If you consider appearing on the side of a cereal box a qualification for being a role model then you need help.

Some, like the superb Keven Mealamu, become men others might want to emulate, but that takes time - it doesn't happen on the whim of a selector's pen.

Now, please, don't get me wrong. Don't read a headline and leap to the conclusion that I'm condoning some of the behaviour that's been highlighted in recent months. Don't use your prejudice against me.

The Chiefs were stupid to hire a stripper and incompetent in the way they handled the fallout when it became public. And Wellington Rugby should have done more to learn the character and history of Losi Filipo before it employed him.

New Zealand Rugby has also been slow to react to these incidents and unable to get in front of these stories and actually show some leadership.

But equally some of you, Joe and Joan Public, are guilty of expecting rugby to be perfect. You sit back and wonder why rugby hasn't fixed woes governments and social agencies have been failing to fix for decades.  

We are a boozing and often violent country that, despite this being 2016, still includes people who are sexist, racist and homophobic, and many who fear and hate for reasons as weak as a person's religion. Such behaviour isn’t confined to our rugby clubrooms – it's all around you.

As for All Blacks halfback Aaron Smith, well, he was stupid to do what he did with a woman in a toilet at Christchurch Airport. We don't know for sure what they were up to, but let's presume they weren't playing Scrabble during the 10 minutes they were apparently both inside. Stupid, and irresponsible, given he was with the All Blacks at the airport and wearing the All Blacks' logo.

 He was also grossly naïve that he thought in this world of camera phones that he could get away with it, but almost every All Black I've known believes at some stage of their career that they should be allowed to live in an invisible bubble and behave as they see fit.

Normally it's just a phase, though in Smith's case it seems to be taking a long time to pass as he has already been caught up in a scandal where a photo of his penis was circulated on social media.

Smith has questions to answer – first from his employer as to how he believed his actions fitted into their code of conduct – a code coach Steve Hansen succinctly encapsulates when he proclaims "better people make better All Blacks".  

Smith also has some things to explain to his partner (who we are presuming wasn't the Lady from the Loo) and probably his family too.

But please, don't use this stupid behavior to saddle up your moral high horse and lay into rugby's failings once again. Rugby hasn't failed here. Aaron Smith has. 

He's old enough to have known better and has been around long enough to realise his actions were risky and that the likelihood of getting caught was high.

Especially when there are people around like the couple who saw the pair enter the toilet one after the other, and waited to see what happened. What does it say about them that the bloke recorded sound from the toilet while one of the pair took photos that have been passed to the media? How is their moral compass? 

They, like Smith and the rest of us, are far from perfect.