Zac Guildford instigated his own professional counselling well before the New Zealand Rugby Union handed down its official punishment today according to his agent Simon Porter.
Guildford has been suspended for one Super Rugby match as well as the Crusaders three preseason fixtures following an NZRU misconduct hearing into his booze-fuelled night in the Cook Islands last month.
And the 22-year-old has also been ordered to undergo alcohol treatment and counselling at his own expense after being found to have brought the game into disrepute, but Porter wants people to know he is not attending sessions under protest.
''Zac put his hand up straight away and put those measure in place himself. It wasn't like that was foisted upon him or part of the disciplinary outcome. That was something Zac wanted to do,'' Porter said.
''I don't want to go into the detail because it's private and confidential stuff, but Zac put his hand up. It's not part of the disciplinary outcome, but part of the support everyone was trying to put in place.
''We didn't have to work hard to do it because Zac wanted to do it... They [the NZRU] can direct people to do it as part of the disciplinary process, but that makes it sound like Zac wasn't willing to do it and that's not the case.''
Porter praised the NZRU for its support of his player over the past month and said Guildford wanted to publicly thank mental skills coach Gilbert Enoka in particular.
''He does [appreciate all the support] and that's maybe why this process took a little longer then it might in other cases because there was a large element of support first and foremost getting the support structures in place.
''I know Zac would want to plug Gilbert Enoka who has been fantastic for him, not only in Rarotonga, but back in New Zealand as well.
''Enoka has provided Zac a lot of support as have Crusaders, Hawke's Bay, and the NZRU, everyone has really got behind him.
''The biggest thing for him is he was embarrassed for himself, his family, his supporters. He's at home now spending time with his family trying to enjoy his leave before the hard work begins.''
Porter said both he and Guildford believed they had been treated fairly at all times during the process and were satisfied with the outcomes reached.
''Absolutely. The collective agreement is pretty robust in terms of the process you have to follow. The suspension, nobody likes not playing rugby, but it was certainly in the range of outcomes the NZRU were able to choose.''
Guildford walked drunk, wet, naked and bleeding into Trader Jacks restaurant on Rarotonga and allegedly assaulted two patrons after attending a friend's wedding. He was also accused of harassing a Cook Islands triathlete.
NZRU general manager professional rugby Neil Sorensen said that the NZRU and Guildford had agreed that professional treatment and counselling provided by external specialists was an essential part of his rehabilitation.
"Taking players out of rugby is not something we do lightly. But we have taken into account the fact that with regard to alcohol-related behaviour, Zac does not have an exemplary record.
"On this occasion, he embarrassed himself, his family, his teammates, and New Zealand Rugby. We believe Zac brought the game into disrepute and the sanctions reflect the gravity of the situation and the need for a real pathway to recovery.
"To his credit, Zac himself has agreed that he needs assistance and recognises that both the NZRU and the Crusaders support him taking time to get himself right," Sorensen said.
Zac Guildford acknowledged his behaviour had been unacceptable, and he was working to resolve his issues.
"I am embarrassed by what has happened, but I know that I let down the many people who support me. I am focused on getting myself into the place I need to be when I return to rugby next year," he said.
The suspension means Guildford is not able to play in the Crusaders' first three pre-season fixtures in February against the Highlanders in Greymouth, the Hurricanes at Mangatainoka, and against the Rebels in Australia, as well as the opening match of the Super Rugby season, against the Blues at Auckland's Eden Park on 24 February 2012.
He will be eligible for selection for the Crusaders week two fixture against the Highlanders in Dunedin, on March 3.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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