Zac Guildford wanted by Magpies

By Kurt Bayer, Doug Laing

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Embattled Hawke's Bay rugby star Zac Guildford could still be turning out for the Magpies despite conduct issues threatening his career with the Canterbury Crusaders.

Hawke's Bay union chief executive officer Mike Bishop said last night the union had not had any issues with Guildford in the six seasons he'd been contracted to play for the Magpies.

"He's been a model player," Mr Bishop said. "Actually, his conduct, in terms of behaviour, has always been exemplary in the Magpies environment."

Yesterday, a Christchurch friend and flatmate of Guildford, who is facing another misconduct hearing for an alleged drunken assault, said the 2009-12 All Black winger had been failed by the New Zealand Rugby Football Union.

He was promised professional help and support from his employers after he ran naked and bleeding into a Rarotonga bar before assaulting two patrons in an alcohol linked episode in November 2011.

Stu Bailey, a TAB bookmaker and almost 20 years older than Guildford who turns 24 next month and whom he took into his home after the Rarotonga incident, said, "I've not seen or heard anyone from the rugby union in the whole time that he's been living here."

Mr Bailey said he'd kept a watchful eye on Guildford and taken him under his wing.

"Someone should've rung me every two or three months to ask if Zac was all right, if everything was going according to plan, of if I'd had any trouble? But, there was nothing."

Now he fears Guildford will be "ditched" and his lucrative NZRU contract torn up.

"They've just gone on record too many times saying this is his last chance," he said.

The NZRU refused to discuss details on what support it was providing Guildford.

A spokeswoman referred to the statement made by NZRU chief executive Steve Tew on Sunday which said: "As his employer, we want to ensure that the process respects Zac's right to a fair hearing so we do not wish to comment further at this stage."

His jockey girlfriend Sam Spratt was riding at Paeroa horse trials yesterday and did not return calls.

The TAB bookmaker says his "great" young housemate was starting to "feel the strain" over what's happened, and wasn't likely to comment until after meeting rugby officials.

Guildford's manager, former NBHS player Simon Porter, said Guildford was shame-faced about the incident and he would seek professional help for his drinking problem.

Sources in Christchurch were reported to have said the latest incident occurred after Guildford went on a gambling and alcohol "binge" and returned to a private home where he had earlier been with friends. He became "completely out of control" and a fracas developed, in which an assault is alleged to have taken place, although police had yesterday received no complaint.

Guildford told Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder two days later, and awaits disciplinary procedures with the NZRFU.

Mr Bishop said the Hawke's Bay union is not involved, though it expects to be kept informed.

Asked if he thought Guildford should quit alcohol for good, APNZ reported Mr Bailey replied: "Anybody that has an issue with drinking obviously has to have a close look at it ... perhaps it doesn't agree with Zac at a certain level."

He refused to say what happened at the party 10 days ago, but believed it had been blown out of proportion.

- HAWKES BAY TODAY

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