All Black Aaron Smith's "toilet encounter" with woman
A WITNESS has described how All Black Aaron Smith and a woman used a disabled toilet at Christchurch Airport for 5-10 minutes on a busy Sunday afternoon, saying there was no question of what the pair were up to.
Smith has been stood down by the All Blacks for one game and is heading home from South Africa after the squad were alerted to the airport incident that unfolded the day after the test against the Springboks in Christchurch three weeks ago.
"Clearly Aaron is bitterly disappointed in his behaviour and feels he has let the team down but just as importantly he feels bitterly disappointed in letting his family and his partner down," All Blacks coach Steve Hansen said today.
Christchurch Airport this morning condemned the "inappropriate" behaviour by the rugby player in the terminal's toilets.
"Like many public facilities, we have disabled facilities.
"We don't condone inappropriate behaviour at our airport and we understand that matters are being dealt with between the All Blacks and the player concerned," a spokeswoman said.
A man wrote to the NZ Herald yesterday saying that he was at the airport with his wife and young children when they saw Smith "sneak" into a wheelchair access bathroom with a young woman who was not his partner.
"The pair were in the bathroom for 5-10 minutes and from the noises coming out of the bathroom there was absolutely no question what the couple were doing in there.
"Mr Smith then came out of the room on his own, straightening up his white checked shirt and black dress pants (the All Blacks uniform they were all wearing at the time).
"About a minute later the young lady comes out of the same toilet cubicle looking equally suspicious. I myself did not have a problem with this ... my wife however is protesting that this is disgusting for a public figure to do.
"He essentially occupied a public cubicle reserved for the disabled for up to 10 minutes.
"This was not discreet, it was 2pm on a Sunday where there were a lot of children and fans around.
"He was in his full All Blacks uniform and there was not an ounce of remorse or regret on his face.
"He buttoned up his shirt and sat back down with his teammates and carried on smiling, chatting like nothing had happened."
A South Island woman this morning denied she was the mystery female friend who left the disabled persons toilet cubicle minutes after Smith.
Smith is now heading back to New Zealand from South Africa and will miss Sunday's test in Durban. New Zealand Rugby confirmed Smith will face a misconduct hearing on his return to New Zealand.
The incident occurred after the All Blacks' 41-13 victory in Christchurch on September 17. All Blacks management were only made aware of the incident this week once they arrived in South Africa for their final Rugby Championship test.
"On the Sunday in Christchurch after the South African test at the Christchurch airport Aaron and a female friend were seen by members of the public to enter the disabled toilets," All Blacks coach Steven Hansen said.
"On our arrival to South Africa on Monday we were informed on this. I had a conversation with Aaron who confirmed the story. As a result of this the leadership group met and were unanimous in the fact the behaviour wasn't acceptable and as a consequence a one-match suspension would be put in place."
"Clearly Aaron is bitterly disappointed in his behaviour and feels he has let the team down but, just as importantly, he feels bitterly disappointed in letting his family and his partner down.
"At his request he has asked to go home to deal with the personal matters that have come with this incident and we are happy to support him with that."
Smith was rested from last Sunday's win over Argentina in Buenos Aires and had been expected to start against the Springboks in Durban. TJ Perenara and Tawera Kerr-Barlow are the remaining halfbacks in the All Blacks squad.
In 2012, Smith was benched ahead of a test against South Africa in Dunedin for breaching team protocol after missing a team curfew. Two years later a naked selfie of Smith was posted on the internet.
Smith, rated by many as the best halfback in the world, made his test debut in 2012 and has played 54 tests for New Zealand. He was a key part of the successful All Blacks Rugby World Cup campaign last year in England which capped off a stellar year for Smith after his Highlanders side claimed their maiden Super Rugby title earlier in the season.
In recent years Aaron's Smith's private life has spilled into public arena, including a one-night stand with Lisa Lewis.
In 2014 his then girlfriend, Hannah Whitefield, ditched the halfback after learning he had had a fling with the former stripper.
Whitefield learned about the cheating by the other woman, who filled her in on the details after learning Smith wasn't single.
Lewis revealed the couple got together the night before a super rugby clash in Auckland, at a team hotel.
The pair kept in contact until Smith confessed to her he was seeing someone else.
At that stage Lewis broke off further liaisons with Smith and contacted Whitefield to tell her he had been unfaithful.
There was further embarrassment when a nude photo went viral on social media, forcing the NZR to pull Smith from a meet-and-greet with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.
It's yet another off-field controversy for New Zealand Rugby following the Chiefs stripper scandal and the Losi Filipo case in the last month.
New Zealand Rugby Chief Executive Steve Tew said: "This was really bad decision-making by Aaron which reflects poorly on him, and on the team."
Tew said Smith has failed to meet the standards that New Zealand Rugby and the public expect of our players.
"We are taking action to improve the culture of our game and are about to embark on an independent review of respect and responsibility in our professional player environment.
"We have drafted the terms of reference and are currently talking to prospective panel members. We will provide an update on this shortly."
Rugby's recent problems
The sport has long dominated the headlines - though in recent months the attention has been not all its prowess on the field - but more about its players' off-field misdemeanours.
The Chiefs Mad Monday scandal in early August when a stripper laid allegations against the rugby union team had barely paled in the headlines, when the news of a Wellington Rugby player, Losi Filipo's assault charge came to light in September.
Today the spotlight has shifted to All Black Aaron Smith who's been handed a one-match suspension following an incident involving a female in a disabled toilet at Christchurch airport.
We take a look at a timeline of New Zealand Rugby's recent scandals
Early August: The Chiefs stripper scandal comes to light
Chiefs Mad Monday celebrations where a hired stripper alleged she'd been inappropriately touched by members of the squad.
A stripper, known as Scarlette, was hired by the team to perform a strip routine at their end-of-season celebrations at the Okoroire hot pools, near Matamata on August 1. She contacted media and told them a number of the players held her down and touched her inappropriately during her performance.
Not long after Scarlette's news broke, another stripper, known as Laura also came forward claiming she had been sexually assaulted during a performance for the team's 2015 Mad Monday celebrations.
Early September: Assault charges against Losi Filipo come to light
In early September there was a public outcry after it was revealed Losi Filipo, a Wellington Lions player had been charged with assaulting four young people, two men and two women, late one night last October, and had been discharged without conviction.
He'd punched one woman in the face, another man so badly it ended his rugby career and left him unable to work full time.