New Zealand and Highlanders halfback Aaron Smith believes he should have taken time out from rugby to work through the aftermath of his infamous liaison in a Christchurch airport toilet.
Smith, 28, was seen entering a disabled toilet cubicle at Christchurch Airport in September with an unidentified woman who was not his partner.
"It was a huge mistake by me, obviously," Smith told media on Monday as he prepared for his 100th Super Rugby match for the Highlanders against the Rebels on Friday.
It's the first time he has spoken about the incident since a tearful public apology immediately afterwards.
"The way it hurt my family and my partner, and then myself obviously, it was just a really tough time," Smith said.
"I probably should have put rugby on the backburner then and focused on myself and my family.
"But we're past that and I've learnt a lot from it - I think a lot of positives have come from that incident for me personally, on field and off field."
Smith sat out the All Blacks' 57-15 hammering of South Africa in the immediate aftermath of the revelations, and voluntarily stood down for the third Bledisloe Test in October.
NZ Rugby concluded that Smith's actions amounted to serious misconduct, and gave him a formal warning.
Smith said the ongoing effects from the incident had been difficult to shake off but he'd undertaken counselling, and had rediscovered his love for rugby after struggling through the All Blacks' end-of-year tour.
"I got to the point where I was over rugby for the year," he said.
"But at Christmas I was already excited to play - usually you need that whole two months to want to come back.
"I fixed a lot of things mentally off the field and that cleared me up to train really hard in the off-season.
"I'm in a really good place right now and I'm just loving how I am on the field and off the field, and how life is."
The Rebels take on the Highlanders in Otago on Friday night, kicking off at 5:35pm AEDT, LIVE on FOX SPORTS.