Earlier this week, Australian cricket fans were angry, after learning that a group of players – including the team’s caption and vice-caption – had deliberately tampered with the ball during a test match against South Africa.
As captain of the squad, Steve Smith bore the brunt of our cricket-loving nation’s fury, with many sports fans sharing their disappointment and embarrassment over his actions online.
Parents of children who idolised Smith and his teammates wondered how to sit and talk to their kids about the game’s heroes trying to cheat on an international stage. Some children declared they were ready to give up on the sport, and wanted to discard any and all remnants of the players that had just days ago looked up to.
But, last night, the public sentiment towards Smith has changed, after the 28-year-old broke down at a press conference at Sydney Airport. Last night, Australia became ready to forgive the man who called the ball-tampering scandal a "failure of [his] leadership" and said he would "do everything [he] can to make up for my mistake and the damage it's caused".
Watch: Steve Smith breaks down at a press conference following ball-tampering scandal.
The hearts of even the most hardest of sports fan's broke as they watched Smith in tears at the pain he had brought his teammates, his fans and, most heartbreaking of all, his parents.
In the wake of Smith's appearance, news presenter Deborah Knight made an emotional plea to parents of children who may be struggling to deal with the cricket captain's emotional apology.
Just spent 20 minutes consoling my crying 9 year old who is a major Steve Smith fan after he watched the press conference. Encouraging him and all kids to write Steve a letter telling him how much you love and admire him.
— deborah knight (@deborah_knight) March 29, 2018
"Just spent 20 minutes consoling my crying 9 year old who is a major Steve Smith fan after he watched the press conference," Deb wrote to her nearly 28,000 followers.
She added she was now encouraging him to "write Steve a letter telling him how much you love and admire him", and said other parents should do the same.
LISTEN: The Mamamia Out Loud team discuss what the Cricket Australia scandal means for us as a nation...Post continues after audio.
Many parents agreed the incident can - and should - be used to not only teach children about sportsmanship and fair play, but also about forgiveness and compassion.
"Smith has been courageous to apologise honestly, front up and take his medicine, and not try to deflect blame," one follower wrote.
"Everyone makes mistakes. It's how we deal with them that builds character."
"I teach a year 4 class full of boys who idolise [Steve Smith]... I didn't know what to tell them other than that everyone makes mistakes," another wrote.
My 9yr old boy adores cricket. He watched Steve Smith and Cam Bancroft at their media appearances tonight. It was a sombre but valuable lesson for him. And I bet for many other kids, too. So some good comes out of this disaster.
— Mike Carlton (@MikeCarlton01) March 29, 2018
"In the same boat myself. I'm just reinforcing the importance of honesty," one parent shared.
"He's actually learning some good life lessons from this."
Some of Australia's biggest media personalities also agreed with Deborah's sentiment:
— jacqueline mckenzie (@JMcKenzie) March 29, 2018
— Sandra Sully (@Sandra_Sully) March 29, 2018
I support the ban and I’d be having conversations with kids about the importance of honesty and integrity always. At the same time, I think it’s good to feel empathy and to believe in redemption and second chances once someone has done their time. https://t.co/cwVk2p6yt6
— Caitlin Fitzsimmons ????♀️ (@niltiac) March 29, 2018
There were also a number of important reminders that - like anyone else - the players are real people with real feelings, who need support instead of becoming the targets of public hate:
It's critically important @CricketAus offers Steve, David & Cameron unconditional support. They have a non negotiable "duty of care" to these young men re their mental health and ongoing https://t.co/p1GHY0weFx see Cameron & Steve utterly shattered brings it home. #SteveSmith
— Peter Overton (@PeterOverton) March 29, 2018
‘Good people make mistakes’ .. I honestly think Steve Smith & Cam Bancroft are decent guys who had a moment of madness .. they deserve a 2nd chance and hopefully get the right support around them now .. Takes a lot guts to do what they did today ..
— Michael Vaughan (@MichaelVaughan) March 29, 2018
Regardless of whatever you think, that Steve Smith press conference was heartbreaking
— Wil Anderson (@Wil_Anderson) March 29, 2018
What Steve Smith did tonight with that press conference was true leadership. Owning up to a major error in judgement and honestly apologising. Also showing his true emotion in this situation. How it affects him and his Dad nearly broke me. So brave in the face of all this.
— David Campbell (@DavidCampbell73) March 29, 2018
No one's perfect. A terrible lapse in judgement but good people make mistakes. Credit to Steve Smith for fronting up. Now let’s give him some time and space.
— Bill Shorten (@billshortenmp) March 29, 2018