Happier times . . . Zac Guildford runs away to score a try
for the Crusaders against the Hurricanes in Christchurch in
June last year. (Photo by Martin Hunter/Getty Images)
A booze and gambling-fuelled night ended with All Black
Zac Guildford allegedly assaulting a partygoer at a
Christchurch house 10 days ago.
Now the 23-year-old is considering a self-imposed and lengthy
leave from professional rugby to address his alcohol problem
once and for all.
It has been revealed Guildford left the Crusaders training
camp voluntarily mid-last week after admitting he was
involved in a drunken incident at a Christchurch house on
A source close to the situation told the Herald Guildford was
drinking at the house "for a couple of hours".
He then left and went on a gambling and alcohol "binge".
Later that night Guildford returned to the party. The source
said by then he was "completely out of control" and allegedly
assaulted another partygoer.
Things were bad enough for Crusaders halfback and former All
Black Andy Ellis to be called to help and he arrived at the
party to help get Guildford under control. He took Guildford
away from the party.
Ellis did not return calls yesterday.
Earlier in the night Crusaders players Tom Marshall and
Kieron Fonotia, from the wider training squad, were also at
the party. They had left by the time the alleged assault
The victim did not want to press charges, and police were not
However, a Christchurch police spokesman said an
investigation could still happen if the incident was serious
and if it was reported to police by "witnesses or interested
The source said that although Guildford's alcohol problem had
been widely publicised after three incidents in the past 18
months, the Canterbury Rugby Football Union also had concerns
over his gambling.
Guildford's Auckland-based agent, Simon Porter, would not
comment on whether the 23-year-old had a gambling issue.
"There's been a pretty common theme whenever Zac's crossed
the line and that's been with the alcohol - so that's his
focus," he told the Herald yesterday.
He revealed that Guildford approached Crusaders coach Todd
Blackadder last Monday and told him about the incident.
He is now "taking some time out" at an undisclosed location.
"As the week went on it became pretty clear that it wasn't in
Zac's or the Crusaders' interest for him to be in the team
environment. So the decision was made last week that he
should spend some time away to concentrate on dealing with
it," Mr Porter said.
In late November 2011 Guildford vowed to stop drinking for a
year after he was arrested in Rarotonga for storming into a
bar naked and drunk and punching two men.
After the incident Guildford also publicly apologised for his
behaviour and said he wanted to focus on his rugby.
But before the year was over, Guildford was photographed
drinking beer and claimed he had changed his ways and could
trust himself to enjoy one or two drinks with friends.
"He had been working really hard since Rarotonga, so he's
devastated. He knows he's let himself, his family and the
"Why? I don't know. Why do you order another drink? It's just
one of those things, he got drunk and just overstepped the
mark I suppose ... of course he wishes he had made a
different decision at the start of that day," said Mr Porter.
"Zac's gutted, because a lot of people have stood by him and
supported him - and he's definitely not seeking anyone's
sympathy. He just knows he's let people down and that's what
hurts the most.
"You can't keep saying sorry, and he's dealing with that.
That probably is the chief reason as to why the decision was
made to take some time away. Given his history, he's pretty
stressed out with the whole situation."
Mr Porter could not say how long Guildford would be "away"
from rugby, but likened the situation to former Black Cap
Jesse Ryder taking himself away from international cricket to
focus on his own issues with alcohol.
"Zac's just having some time away. He's just trying to work
out what to do. Last time around rugby was seen as the
solution - staying within the environment. But that didn't
work so well. So now just some time away from that
environment might be better for him."
Mr Porter said Guildford would seek professional help for his
drinking problem, and would likely give up alcohol
"I don't want to say something that's going to come back on
us but I think it's fair to say his drinking career is
probably over. It kind of has to be. But I think it's safe to
say that he'd gone down a course, he was comfortable about
where he was at and thought he could manage it, and that's
backfired on him.
"It's probably likely that he's going to have to knock it on
"I just don't know. I'm not the professional. If he knew why,
I think it wouldn't have happened because he would have been
able to stop it. In no way am I trying to trivialise it and I
understand it's a massive issue. It's just a field I'm not an
Mr Porter said he would support Guildford getting treatment
and dealing with his issues.
"I just want Zac to fulfil the potential that everyone knows
he's got ... Does he want to keep playing? Absolutely he
wants to. It's a privilege he hopes he can continue to have
but that's in the hands of the NZRU now."
- Kurt Bayer, Anna Leask