Patrick McKendry

Patrick McKendry is a rugby writer for the Herald.

'Ashamed' Zac admits he has issue - Blackadder

All Black Zac Guildford enjoyed a drink after the team's World Cup win, but he is now in trouble for his actions in Rarotonga. Photo / Supplied
All Black Zac Guildford enjoyed a drink after the team's World Cup win, but he is now in trouble for his actions in Rarotonga. Photo / Supplied

All Black Zac Guildford is "hurting and ashamed" and can't remember his drunken night in Rarotonga - and his family say his drinking problems stem from the early death of his father.

Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder spoke to Guildford yesterday and said the 22-year-old World Cup squad member was "devastated" and at rock bottom over his actions at Trader Jacks bar on Friday night (NZT).

"He's really hurting and ashamed," Blackadder said.

"He can't remember anything but he acknowledges that it happened. Just talking to him, he has hit rock bottom.

"I think that for the very first time, Zac has acknowledged that he's got an issue, that he can't control his drinking, and it's obviously causing a lot of issues, not only for himself but also his family as well.

"Maybe some good can really come out of the fact that he acknowledges he really needs help. It's a time when we need to support him rather than judge him."

Guildford reportedly stormed into Trader Jacks at 10pm, naked and bleeding from cuts received earlier in the day.

He allegedly punched two men, climbed on to the stage and then ran into the bar's kitchen, where staff covered him with an apron.

He left with a group of women he had been partying with earlier, and police arrived soon after.

Employment law expert Susan Hornsby-Geluk told Fairfax Media Guildford's latest indiscretion was definitely a sackable offence, as the image and reputation of the All Blacks could be damaged by his actions.

However, NZ Rugby Union professional rugby general manager Neil Sorensen said the union was largely in the dark about the details of what happened, and the first thing it had to do was to "find out the facts".

"The second thing we will do is help the guy if he is in trouble."

While that means Guildford will probably keep his job, he could be fined several thousand dollars or suspended, as he is already on notice.

Yesterday, Guildford's grandparents, Frank and June Burt, said from their Featherston home that Guildford's mother - their daughter Deb - had phoned to tell them about the incident, the latest in a string of alcohol-related episodes that have put the winger before the NZRU management three times in the past 18 months.

Mr Burt said he had been told his grandson had been hospitalised for coral poisoning after cutting himself while swimming.

A doctor at Rarotonga Hospital couldn't confirm that Guildford had been treated there but said such injuries often required antibiotics - which shouldn't be taken with alcohol.

Mr Burt believed his grandson had also had "too much fame and it's too much to handle".

He didn't understand his grandson's latest actions.

"It now looks like he shot himself in the foot."

But he still loved his grandson very much.

"He's such a lovely, lovely man."

Mr Burt said he was very proud of Guildford's sporting achievements, but asked whether the latest incident might jeopardise his All Black career, he said: "Of course it would, but he's got that much talent that I'm sure in time the dust will settle.

"Being a grandfather, of course I'm concerned. He'll get past it all right - but the only person he has hurt is himself."

Meanwhile, varying reports were circulating in Rarotonga as to how Guildford received his injuries.

One said he was riding a scooter at speed and fell off it, others said he jumped out of a moving car or leaped into a lagoon.

One tourist who arrived home from Rarotonga yesterday told the Herald he had been told by authorities that police had been trying to take Guildford to hospital for his injuries earlier in the day but he had got away from them.

A Cook Islands police spokesman would not comment, but said an inspector who was handling the case would give details tomorrow.

Guildford's previously documented issues with the booze include a heavy night of drinking after the All Blacks' loss to Australia in a Tri-Nations test in Brisbane in August.

In September he admitted to having issues with alcohol after incidents in Brisbane and Auckland and promised he would get it under control.

Blackadder said a rugby union misconduct charge clearly hadn't worked and Guildford needed clinical help.

He said Guildford was still grieving for his father.

"There's a real issue here that he's obviously suppressed," he said.

"There's a lot of anger and emotion behind it and it takes an expert to help him. It's really hard to help someone if they don't think they've got a problem."

Prime Minister John Key said he had seen media reports of the incident but was not in a position to comment.

"What I would say is Zac Guildford is obviously a player with an enormous amount of ability, but if the media reports are right, he needs to try to resolve those personal issues he's going through."

Guildford is believed to be in Rarotonga for the wedding of rugby friend Jarred McCarthy and fiancee Sam Barlow, although the Cook Islands News reported he might be there for the secret wedding of fellow All Black Israel Dagg and his partner.

Others reportedly in the Cook Islands include Rugby World Cup boss Martin Snedden and All Blacks assistant coach Wayne Smith.

Cook Islands News managing editor John Woods said the paper planned to call Guildford to account tomorrow, asking for him to come forward and apologise for his actions.

POLICE HANDCUFFS AFTER ESCAPE BID

Disgraced All Black Zac Guildford was seen handcuffed in a Rarotonga police station after his drunken episode at Trader Jacks bar.

A police source told the Herald in the Cook Islands capital late last night that Guildford said, "I'm sorry", when he saw him at the station.

The source said Guildford could still face charges.

Earlier, Guildford had tried to escape from police who were taking him to hospital to be treated for injuries he got while swimming through a lagoon. He was still naked at that time.

Friends brought clothes for him from his hotel room to the police station.

Trader Jacks owner Jack Cooper said Guildford was "completely out of it" when he entered the bar.

"He went up and punched one of our patrons and then went round the bar and then he struck a guy who was celebrating his 60th birthday.

"Then he realised he was naked and started apologising to everyone."

The 60-year-old allegedly struck was Australian Nick Cox.

Mr Cox told the Herald on Sunday he did not plan to lay a formal complaint, but Guildford had "an issue that he needs to sort out".

- additional reporting: staff reporters, APNZ

- NZ Herald

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