Sydney - Glenn Maxwell says the Australian team felt Steve Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft were treated like criminals during the ball-tampering scandal in South Africa, and the ordeal left them shell-shocked.
Maxwell, who was one of three players rushed out to join the tour before the final Test in Johannesburg after the trio were sent home, said it had been extremely hard for the young squad to witness what happened to their team-mates.
It was particularly tough for them to watch the televised emotional apologies from Smith and Bancroft on arrival in Australia, and chaotic scenes when Smith was booed and called a cheat while being escorted through Johannesburg's OR Tambo airport.
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"I think the way they saw it, it was obviously beaten up a fair bit and they've seen a couple of their mates treated like criminals," he told Melbourne's Radio SEN on Wednesday.
"That is a hard thing for you to watch as a team-mate, and to what they went through, especially Steve Smith at the airport, that was a hard thing for everyone to watch.
"To then try and get yourself ready for a game of cricket a day later was extremely difficult, and I certainly didn't envy their position at all. It was an extremely tough time for that whole playing group."
WATCH: Shocking scenes at OR Tambo as Steve Smith needs police escort
The fallout had a big effect on the team as they slumped to a 492-run defeat in the final Test.
All-rounder Maxwell arrived along with opening batsmen Matt Renshaw and Joe Burns as the replacements and he thought he might be able to provide some energy and be a positive influence around the team.
But he admitted it had been harder than he imagined.
"I had thoughts of what it could be like, and I hoped I could've provided something different for the group when I got over there, whether it be energy, or just a happy face around the group to try and cheer them up," he said.
"The enormity struck me at the end of the Test match when Boof (coach Darren Lehmann) had his goodbye speech and spoke about a few players in the group that he hoped could lead the group going forward.
"I think that's when it all hit me and how hard it was for this young group."
A tearful Lehmann quit in the wake of the scandal, staying on only for the fourth and last Test before departing.
His decision followed 12-month bans given to then captain Smith and his deputy Warner for the roles they played in the plot to cheat during the third Test in Cape Town.
Bancroft was banned for nine months for his part in the affair.