Family blame father's death for Guildford rampage

By Patrick McKendry of APNZ, Elizabeth Binning, Andrew Koubaridis


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 (Sunday) 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.<inline type="poll" id="3858" align="outside"/>

``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.

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 which have put the winger before the New Zealand Rugby Union 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.

Mrs Burt said that regardless of what Guildford had got up to, she and her husband ``love him to bits''.

``We have had a few drinks with Zac and he has been to many family gatherings and parties, and I can honestly say I have never seen him drunk.''

She said her daughter had told her that after the bar incident, Guildford had been taken to hospital but was now out and back at his hotel.

``He is not a very happy chap at all.''

Mrs Burt said she was ``not sticking up for him just for the sake of it'' and wanted the talented young rugby player to take control of his life and return to his best on and off the field.

She said it was likely Guildford had not got over the sudden death of his father, Robert, about three years ago.

Mr Guildford died while watching his son play for the NZ Under-20 team as they won the final of the world championships against England in Tokyo in 2009.

``He has had a hell of a three years ...''

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 have jeopardise his All Black career he said: ``Of course it Zac `hurting, ashamed' after bar rampage

There's a real issue here ... There's a lot of anger and emotion behind it and it takes an expert to help him.Todd Blackadder 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 leapt 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'd got away from them.

A Cook Islands police spokesman would not comment, but said an inspector who was handling the case would give details on the incident 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'd 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 may be there for the secret wedding for 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 Island 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.



- Hawkes Bay Today

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