Zac Guildford cops 4 week ban

By MARK STORY


Hawke's Bay All Black Zac Guildford has avoided the axe, but has been suspended from the first four weeks of the Crusaders' 2012 season.

This morning's announcement from the New Zealand Rugby Union followed a misconduct hearing into the Magpie's alcohol-fuelled incidents in the Cook Islands last month.

The NZRU, which found Guildford's conduct was unprofessional and brought the game into disrepute, also ordered he undergo alcohol treatment and counselling - at his own expense.

A misconduct hearing was sparked after the 22-year-old winger walked naked, bleeding, drunk and dripping wet into a bar and assaulted two patrons while holidaying with other rugby players in the island's capital for a friend's wedding.

Cook Islands national triathlete Kelly Pick also laid a formal complaint following an harassed her. She claimed he pursued her on a motor scooter and continually made lewd remarks.

The incident followed other off-field indiscretions including a late-night drunken incident after the team's Tri Nations loss to Australia in Brisbane three months earlier.

At the time NZRU professional rugby general manager Neil Sorensen claimed he couldn't rule out terminating the All Black's contract.

In this morning's statement Mr Sorensen said the sanctions were "an essential part of his rehabilitation".

"Taking players out of rugby is not something we do lightly," Mr Sorensen said.

"But we have taken into account the fact that with regard to alcohol-related behaviour, Zac does not have an exemplary record.

"On this occasion, he embarrassed himself, his family, his teammates, and New Zealand rugby. We believe Zac brought the game into disrepute and the sanctions reflect the gravity of the situation and the need for a real pathway to recovery.

"To his credit, Zac himself has agreed that he needs assistance and recognises that both the NZRU and the Crusaders support him taking time to get himself right."

The suspension means Guildford is not able to play in the Crusaders' first three pre-season fixtures in February against the Highlanders in Greymouth, the Hurricanes at Mangatainoka, and against the Rebels in Australia, as well as the opening match of the Investec Super Rugby season against the Blues at Auckland's Eden Park on February 24.

- HAWKES BAY TODAY

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