Crusader Zac Guildford may sidestep sacking
GREG FORD AND RICHARD KNOWLER
Does Zac Guildford deserve another chance with the NZRU?
Zac Guildford could soon be taking another sip from a second-chance saloon.
Fears the All Black's contract is poised to be shredded by his employer, the New Zealand Rugby Union, appear wide of the mark as his agent Simon Porter last night revealed new details about his client's latest late-night fracas.
In the absence of concrete information, wild rumour started to circulate Christchurch yesterday. Porter moved to fill the vacuum by confirming his client was involved in a physical altercation with one other man.
"I can't say much more than that. It was obviously alcohol-related and the other party has accepted Zac's apology.
"Some of the rumours flying around are clearly ridiculous and while Zac is embarrassed and disappointed with his behaviour, I think it is important to put this in context and to also put comments made by Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder in context.
"Todd said this is a very serious incident, and it is, but in the context that Zac broke his own guideline and behaviour expectations."
Porter's comments have been largely corroborated by his flatmate Stu Bailey and eye witness accounts of the incident.
They said Guildford had too much to drink at a private party and became aggressive and punched another male.
How much damage the blow caused is still unclear. One source said the other partygoer was "knocked out".
It appears he holds no grudge but a third party complaint - and Guildford's decision to fess up to Crusaders management before it hit the headlines - has triggered an investigation and disciplinary hearing.
Rugby authorities long ago tired of the 23-year-old's drunken antics, and speculation is rife the NZRU may sever ties. But the signs are starting to look less bleak.
Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder said while the franchise would have no input into Guildford's misconduct meeting with the NZRU this week, Guildford could rehabilitate himself and resurrect his career with the Crusaders, leaving the door ajar.
But Blackadder emphasised he needed to seek treatment and acknowledge the damage booze was causing.
Although instructed to undergo alcohol treatment and counselling after his meltdown in Rarotonga in late 2011, Guildford, who has stood himself down from the squad, has been unable to control his demons since returning to the bottle earlier this summer.
"This doesn't mean he is gone from the Crusaders . . . but we have to wait until what happens at the misconduct hearing," Blackadder added.
If Guildford's NZRU contract is terminated, the Crusaders are likely to ask if they can promote former Highlanders wing Kurt Baker from the wider training group.
Although Guildford's antics had again soiled the Crusaders' reputation, Blackadder said his team-mates were more concerned about his health rather than feeling anger.
"There's a lot of good in Zac. It's just disappointing - 95 per cent of the time he's fantastic. When he lets himself down there's a lot of hurt and frustration."
- The Press