Zac Guildford 'no monster' says girlfriend
As Zac Guildford's New Zealand rugby career dangles by a thread, his girlfriend and successful jockey Sam Spratt has spoken out in defence of her man, saying the All Black is not the "monster" some have painted him out to be.
Guildford accepted he had a drinking problem but wanted to continue his rugby career in New Zealand, she said.
Since withdrawing from the Crusaders last week, Guildford, who is expected to attend a New Zealand Rugby Union misconduct hearing this week following an alcohol-related incident at a Christchurch party, has stayed with Spratt at her Pukekohe home.
The jockey hopes the NZRU do not terminate Guildford's contract, allowing him to continue his career in New Zealand.
"I think he would love to come back and at least play [in New Zealand] this season.
"I am sure he would love to continue on. But what he will do I am not 100 per cent sure.
"Either way, he loves playing rugby and I am sure he wants to continue to do that."
Guildford is expected to assess his offshore options if sacked by the NZRU.
His contract with the Crusaders expires after this year's campaign and he has not signed a new deal with Hawke's Bay.
Before this latest incident it is understood Guildford had already been looking at opportunities outside New Zealand but had signed nothing.
Japan looms as a probable destination, providing he can convince a club to overlook his string of off-field misdemeanours.
Playing overseas could have multiple benefits for Guildford.
He would still earn a healthy salary and if he steers clear of strife, he may convince the NZRU he has mended his wild ways and return.
Spratt has endured her share of difficulties during her riding career.
In 2003, then 18, she suffered life-threatening head injuries when her horse was spooked and jumped the railing.
Doctors told her she would never ride again but she proved them wrong.
Despite Guildford's problems with alcohol, she defended his character.
"I am nowhere near in the sort of limelight that he is in but I know that even in our industry you get knocks and brush yourself off and get up as much as you can. You have to deal with knocks.
"But it has been hard for him. I think it is just a real shame that he is such a great guy and it has been publicised that he is a monster, basically.
"Everyone that knows him knows that is rubbish."
Spratt added that Guildford accepted he had a drinking problem: "Definitely. One hundred and one per cent I think that. There is some issue there and that is a shame."
Among those to offer the wing assistance was Simon Porter, his agent from the Essentially Group.
"I'm not an expert to give advice but no doubt Simon [Porter] will help him in whatever way he is needed to be helped," Spratt added. "Zac is not a bad person."
"He went through a stage where he thought there possibly wasn't but there is a way out. He has taken it quite hard."
Although Guildford has carved out a reputation as an enfant terrible when under the influence, Spratt said it was easy for the public to overlook the positive things, including his ability to relate to children. "Look, I have a 7-year-old son and he is great with him and he is great with other kids.
"I just think it is hard being in the limelight. It just makes it worse but I am sure it will work itself out."