Zac Guildford admits to alcohol addiction
March 14, 2013
Zac Guildford has been cleared to play rugby again and will rejoin his team-mates on Friday in Christchurch © Getty Images
Zac Guildford has admitted publicly for the first time he is an alcoholic. The Crusaders wing fronted a large media contingent in Wellington after being reinstated to the team following a string of alcohol-related incidents.
Neil Sorensen, New Zealand Rugby Union general manager professional rugby, revealed even as late as Wednesday night that Guildford was close to having his contract torn up. But Guildford's admission and the steps he has taken and continues to take to battle what he described as "the disease of alcoholism" were enough to convince the NZRU to give him another chance.
"I think the key thing that we've seen is that for the first time since we've been dealing with this young man that he's finally been honest with us and honest with himself and honest with his mates," Sorensen said. "We wish that we were at this stage 14 months ago, post Rarotonga. But we didn't get there. The difference really is that Zac has said 'look I'm actually an alcoholic'."
Guildford, who admitted he had "addictive tendencies", withdrew himself from the Crusaders in January in order to address his issues after punching a man at a party while drunk. In the time since he has spent 28 days in a rehabilitation facility where he finally accepted the reality that he is an alcoholic.
"I went in there thinking I knew it all but I didn't," he said. "That's when I got out of the denial stage and started accepting who I am and realising that I can't do what I have been doing in the past. It's probably the best thing I've done so far for myself."
While Guildford admitted he would have to take it a day at a time, he felt staying off the booze was a "pretty small sacrifice", adding: "Look at the damage it's caused for me. The road I've been on for the last 60 days has been a happy one and a pleasant one and one I want to continue.
"I just realised that this is it. I'm sick of being the old Zac and I had to make some life-changing decisions and start moving forward because I was sick of going up and down on the same spot."
And what did he want the new Zac to be like?
"Staying clear of trouble. Having a positive life. I can't really say it in words I can only do it in actions," Guildford said. "I know I'm in a good space now. I'm the happiest I've been in a long time actually."
Guildford will rejoin his team-mates in Christchurch on Friday. "They have been really supportive over the last eight weeks or however long it's been. I'll be able to catch up with them tomorrow and address them and explain to them what I've been through and that will give them a greater understanding."
That building of bridges also extends to coach Todd Blackadder, whose patience was severely tested by Guildford's string of misdemeanours. The pair have been in contact by phone during the winger's rehabilitation.
"I think he's got a greater understanding and I've got a greater understanding of the problem and the disease of alcoholism," explained Guildford, who will attend AA meetings among other things as part of his ongoing recovery. "I think he has seen for the first time that I'm really willing to accept that and I have accepted that."
Jim Mallinder and Justin Burnell were sat on the same top table, but in different circumstances. Tom Hamilton reports on the Aviva Premiership season launch
Tom Hamilton reports back from the launch of the Guinness PRO12 where there is a renewed sense of optimism with all of the off-field changes to the league
So much for the great Australian revival, writes Greg Growden. It now has the potential of going off the rails after the capitulation at Eden Park
The latest Week in Pictures takes in photographs from the Rugby Championship, the Top 14 and the southern hemisphere domestic scene