For the first time in 266 days former Australian cricket captain Steve Smith has fronted the Aussie media.
The last time Smith held a press conference in front of the Australian media came on March 29 after the ball-tampering scandal that rocked Cricket Australia to the core.
After arriving back in Sydney, Smith alongside his father poured his heart out and detailed just how “devastated” he was by what had unfolded.
“To all of my teammates, fans of cricket all over the world and to all Australians who are disappointed and angry … I’m sorry,” Smith said.
“I made a serious error of judgment and I now understand the consequences. It was a failure of leadership, of my leadership.
“I’ll do everything I can to make up for my mistake and the damage it has caused.
“I hope in time I can earn back respect and forgiveness.
“Cricket is the greatest game in the world, it’s been my life and I hope it can be again.
“I’m sorry and I’m absolutely devastated.”
Smith opened up and delivered fresh insight into his “dark” and “difficult” days in the wake of the scandal in a new commercial for Vodafone.
But as he answered a plethora of questions from reporters for his first press conference, Smith admitted the ad wasn’t supposed to be released until after his presser and that while he is getting paid he’s putting money towards a mental health fund.
“The work that Gus (Worland) and I have been doing with Gotcha for Life, we’re trying to create mental health awareness around the country,” Smith said.
“The number of suicides in Australia is far too high. Six men and two women a day for 25 million people, or thereabouts, I think it’s unacceptable. And I’m trying to do what I can to create that awareness around it. And that’s what the campaign is about.
“I’m getting paid, but I’m also putting forward funds towards the Gotcha For Life sessions. Gus and I haven’t sat down and exactly figured out where it’s all going, but in the new year we’ll do that and figure out where I can put towards this organisation to help create that awareness around mental health.”
Just like it was in March, a huge media contingent awaited the former skipper to speak as his 12-month ban from the game draws closer to an end.
Smith is suspended from playing international and domestic cricket until the end of March along with vice-captain David Warner, while Cameron Bancroft returns from his suspension as of December 30th.
While many fans believed the suspensions handed down were adequate, calls have continued to roll in to have the length of the bans cut down.
But Smith never got on board with those calls as he simply just wanted to accept the sanction and move on.
“I just wanted to accept it and own — and take responsibility for it,” Smith said.
“I didn’t think about, um, reviewing it at all or appealing it, as such. It was just about accepting it and knowing that I’d made a mistake and accepting it and moving on from it.”
Of course plenty of discussion centred around Smith and the scenes which unfolded during the now famous moments that took place in South Africa.
“I think it has been documented pretty heavily what went on,” Smith said.
“For me I walked passed something and had the opportunity to stop it and I didn’t do it and that was my leadership failure.
“There was the potential for something to happen and it went out onto the field and I had the opportunity to stop it at that point, rather than say I don’t want to know anything about it.
“That was my failure of leadership and I have taken responsibility for that.
“As far as I’m concerned this was the first its happened for Australia. (ball tampering).
“I know that in any game that you play, you want the ball to try and move at some point in the game. But obviously you want to do it in a legal way and allow it to play its course that way, I guess.”
The intense scrutiny Smith has been placed under over the past nine months have led many to worry about the mental state of the former skipper.
But despite enduring some horror days following the ball-tampering scandal, Smith admitted he is “heading in the right direction”.
“I’ve had some tough days. But they’re sort of few and far between now. I still have moments and have my ups and downs. But, yeah, I’m going OK and heading in the right direction,” Smith said.
“I’m moving forward day to day, and doing what I need to do to prepare to hopefully get another opportunity to play for Australia.
“I’ve still got a lot of work to do to earn back the trust and respect of the Australian public. And I’ll continue to do that.”