All Blacks will help Guildford

Witnesses said Zac Guilford turned up wet, naked and bleeding at Trader Jacks on the main island of Rarotonga. Photo / Getty Images
Witnesses said Zac Guilford turned up wet, naked and bleeding at Trader Jacks on the main island of Rarotonga. Photo / Getty Images

The New Zealand Rugby Union will help Zac Guildford rather than tear up his contract following an alleged naked, drunken incident in a Cook Islands bar, NZRU professional rugby general manager Neil Sorensen says.

Witnesses said the winger turned up wet, naked and bleeding at Trader Jacks on the main island of Rarotonga on Thursday night local time - about 10pm Friday NZT.

The 22-year-old allegedly punched a man who asked him if he needed help before staggering to the bar and punching a 60-year-old Australian man across the back of the head.

He then climbed on to the stage before running into the bar's kitchen, where staff covered him with an apron. He then took off into the night with a group of women he had been partying with earlier.

Cook Islands police were called to the bar but said they would not comment on the incident until Monday morning.

Sorensen held a brief press conference at his Wellington home this afternoon (Sunday) and said they were largely in the dark over specific details of the reported incident.

"The first thing we'll do is find out the facts," Sorensen said.

"The second thing we will do is help the guy if he is in trouble. Again, our first move is to really say 'how can we help this guy', that's the first thing. But we've got to establish the facts and it sounds like he got up to something. We are not denying that."

The latest incident follows Guildford's previously documented issues with the booze, including a heavy night of drinking following the All Blacks' loss to Australia in a Tri-Nations test in Brisbane in August.

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

"Zac's been in front us about three times in the last 18 months," Sorensen said.

"So he's had a bit of a troubled career and it's been well-publicised. He lost his dad a couple of years ago. He's also had some alcohol-related issues in the past, and we've worked closely with Zac over the last 18 months and many people have, and we will continue to do so. He's a good young man."

Guildford's mother, Deborah, said she had no comment and hung up when contacted today.

Guildford is in Rarotonga for the wedding of rugby friend Jarred McCarthy and fiancee Sam Barlow but the Cook Islands News reported he may actually 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 Islands News managing editor John Woods said the incident was a real scandal in Rarotonga.

"There's a degree of humour but it's not a good look for the All Blacks, it's not a good look for our visitor industry and really it's a disgrace.

"The rugby union needs to speak up. The heads of the union are here ... and they should find this young guy and force him to step forward and speak up and make some apologies.

"In my opinion this bloke needs to get off his high horse, find the people he punched and offended, and get on his knees."

It remains unclear how Guildford suffered his injuries. Ms Barlow said he had fallen from a scooter, while Mr Woods said he reportedly jumped from a moving car.

Prime Minister John Key said he hoped Guildford could resolve any issues he faced.

"Zac Guildford is obviously a player with an enormous amount of ability but if the media reports are right then he needs to try and resolve those personal issues he is going through," Key said.

Hawke's Bay Rugby Union chairman Brendan Mahony said Guildford was under All Blacks management and it was a matter for them.

Asked about Guildford's future with the provincial team, Mahony said: "There's no way we could comment on it at the moment. It's only allegations and we've seen nothing official about it at all."

Trader Jacks staff member David Tautu told the Cook Islands News he did not care that Guildford was an All Black.

"I was just trying to get him out of here. He was naked and bleeding and he got into a scuffle at the bar."

Barman Junior said the mostly New Zealand crowd turned on the player and shouted: "You're a f---ing embarrassment, you're an All Black."

New Zealand High Commissioner to the Cook Islands John Carter said it was not a matter for the commissioner and no complaints or comments had been received.

"It's a matter that obviously Zac Guildford himself and the All Blacks will have to deal with," he said.

"It's unfortunate, I think - all those incidences are. I'm sure young Mr Guildford is very remorseful and I'm sure that the All Black management will be disappointed."

New Zealand Rugby Players' Association executive director Rob Nichol told Radio Live the organisation had faith in Guildford and would continue to work with him.

"When you have these sorts of issues the hardest part is actually addressing them," he said. "He's going to need a lot of help and a lot of support and he's going to up and down in that process.

"There was a lot of work put around Zac after the incidents just prior to and during the World Cup. It's not uncommon for a player to go through this scenario and have a slip up.

"We want to persevere around these young kids and when they are struggling we want to be there and help them and not turn our backs, whether that takes six months, a year or longer. New Zealand rugby and sport in general is based on values and mateship and the guy is going through a difficult time. "You've got to work out how you can best add value and hope that things come right.

"The support is there but ultimately this is not a sporting issue, this is a serious societal issue."

Guildford's agent Simon Porter said he would not comment or confirm whether he had spoken to Guildford.

"I'm not commenting, I know as much as you do and it's just not the right time, I'm sorry.''


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