NZRU won't leave Guildford high and dry
Disgraced All Black Zac Guildford has pledged to give up alcohol and wants to continue playing rugby, but first he will have to go through a misconduct process that will include professional help.
The 22-year-old Crusaders wing has been in the spotlight this week following his extraordinary behaviour while on a drunken binge on the Cook Islands which saw him harass several people and stagger naked and bleeding into a bar - none of which he could recall.
Guildford returned to New Zealand from Rarotonga on Wednesday, having been cleared by Cook Island Police to leave, and after offering to meet and apologise to the people he had encountered last Thursday. He also spoke to media on his arrival at Auckland International Airport.
NZRU General Manager of Professional Rugby Neil Sorensen confirmed that while Guildford had embarrassed himself and rugby, it was important to provide a structured and ongoing plan of support for the young player.
He commented: "From an employer's perspective, the events in Rarotonga have been incredibly disappointing and Zac needs to be accountable for his actions. This will involve Zac going through our misconduct process over the coming weeks.
"However, it is fairly clear that there are some very big issues involved here, and rugby cannot provide all the solutions on our own. We are working with a professional counselling organisation which will provide guidance and input as to the next steps for the coming days, weeks and months.
"That will obviously require a joint approach with Zac, his family and other supporters, the Crusaders and the NZRU," Sorensen said.
Guildford himself is hopeful that the NZRU do not deem it fit to end his contract and explained that he would like to continue playing rugby for the Crusaders, although that may be dependant on the opinion of the counsellors he deals with in the coming weeks.
"When we do receive professional advice, they might say yes, time out from rugby is the right thing to do. Conversely they might say no, absolutely not, he has to stay in rugby and have some stability in his life," Sorensen said earlier.
Guildford told reporters at the Auckland International Airport that although he would like to continue playing he is ready to do whatever it takes to get his life back on track, and added that he plans to give up alcohol.
He said: "I'm ready to give it a good crack and put myself in a better position to be a better person, and if being an All Black flows from that then it does, but at the moment I'm concentrating on myself and the Crusaders.
"I accept that myself and alcohol at the moment don't mix too well, obviously it switches something inside me and that's disappointing but at the moment I'm giving it up and just looking to better myself and sort out issues that obviously go on when I do drink.
"I have to. I mean I've got a lot of fans out there and my family and as I said my support crew and I can't keep messing up, I think I owe them and myself a long time off the booze and a better and healthy future," he added.
Guildford is aware that he runs the serious risk of having his contract with the NZRU terminated, but he is hopeful that he will be given the opportunity to show that he can change his life for the better.
"My job is to play rugby and if I do have the privilege of keeping my contract and playing for the Crusaders, then it gives me a few months to get ready and get in tip top shape for the season," he explained.
"I guess it'll be a bit different from what I'm used to. It's always good to go out and have a few drinks with mates but obviously at times you go overboard so for me giving it up it's only a small sacrifice, my job is to play rugby and to be a role model and I want to start doing that," Guildford concluded.