Dylan Cleaver on sport

Sport analysis and comment from APN's Head of Sport Dylan Cleaver

Dylan Cleaver: Guildford in need of a trial separation

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Zac Guildford having a drink after the Rugby World Cup final. Photo / Supplied
Zac Guildford having a drink after the Rugby World Cup final. Photo / Supplied

Every regular on the Hawkes Bay social scene has their own Zac Guildford story and they all involve the combustible ingredients of his latest disgrace: alcohol and obnoxious, sometimes violent, behaviour.

This cannot have escaped the attention of Hawkes Bay, Crusader or New Zealand rugby bosses, but so far none have been able to impress upon the wayward wing just what he is on the verge of throwing away.

That's the fascinating part of this story, not Guildford's behaviour per se. We can summarise that simply by saying he has a binge-drinking problem that does not differentiate him from thousands of "normal" young New Zealand males - the incongruity being that his skills as a rugby player and the rewards that bring means he does not qualify as a "normal" young New Zealander.

In recent years, rugby officials have assumed that the sport can play a big role in helping those with anti-social issues. That's why they kept giving guys like Sione Lauaki and Jimmy Cowan second and third chances.

They believe that professional rugby, by and large, provides a positive environment for young men.

It is an admirable stance and far better than the alternative. You look back at the disgraceful way Ron Rangi and Keith Murdoch were effectively excommunicated by officialdom and wonder how their lives might have changed had they been subject to more far-sighted administrators.

So it was no surprise to hear the following comment from the NZRU's slightly harried general manager of professional rugby, Neil Sorensen: "The first thing we'll do is find out the facts. 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."

Absolutely nothing wrong with those sentiments. But ...

You just wonder if the only thing that will wake Guildford up from this extended nightmare is to lose the one thing that matters to him more than being the life of the party.

We're not talking about divorcing him from the game, but a trial separation that may enable him to recalibrate his priorities. Something like a six-week suspension from the 2012 Super 15 - meaning no involvement with the squad at all.

No doubt there's a clause in the collective agreement surrounding disciplinary processes that wouldn't allow for such an arbitrary sentence, but it would be worth investigating.

Who knows, it might not work, but neither has the arm draped around the shoulder.

Sorensen was right, Guildford needs help.

It's time for the individual, not the sport, to find it.

- NZ Herald

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