No, all was not well in Australian cricket at the time of Cape Town, but flawed culture cannot be allowed to act as an historical smokescreen. In that moment, experienced adult professional sportsmen conspired in or assented to a wrong. They knew it, as their ham-fisted effort to cover it up and so compound the offence showed. That wasn't culture, that was the blind panic of the bang-to-rights guilty.
This, the players accepted. All three had recourse to challenge their bans at the time, but did not. Since, they have gone about their business stoically, playing what cricket they can without demur about what they cannot. This suggests true remorse, even in a humble way an element of leadership.
As best can be told, none of the three were party to the ACA's appeal, even tacitly. Perhaps Smith should have distanced himself from it publicly, but that would have created another rift in a game trying to heal them. His further silence was statement enough.
So on whose behalf did the ACA take up its cudgels? The Cape Town trio? No. Players generally, as some kind of class action? That does not compute. The Australian cricket public? Evidently, this formed part of their submission.
But there is little apparent softening of public sentiment towards the Australian players, even in the wake of the Longstaff report. Sadness, yes, as the grim reality of our suddenly rather plain cricket team sinks in, but forgiveness, no. My experience is that the least forgiving sector of the cricket community are the players themselves, at all levels, up to and including former teammates. They understand the scale here.