TROUBLED ALL BLACKS winger Zac Guildford has admitted he was an alcoholic after the New Zealand Rugby Union handed him a career lifeline following a string of off-field incidents.
Guildford, who withdrew from rugby in January after reportedly becoming involved in a brawl at a party, was cleared to return to the New Zealand national team and his Super 15 club the Canterbury Crusaders.
The 24-year-old said he was grateful for the opportunity, believing his contract would be ripped up after his most recent indiscretion, which prompted him to undergo counselling and rehabilitation.
“My understanding was limited around alcoholism and the issue I had,” he told reporters on Thursday. “That’s the first step, admitting I was powerless over alcohol, and once I realised that, everything became a bit easier.”
Asked if he was an alcoholic, he replied: “Yes.”
New Zealand Rugby Union professional rugby manager Neil Sorensen said strict conditions had been imposed on the 24-year-old but the NZRU had decided to give him another chance because of his honesty in confronting his problem.
“This decision was not reached lightly or hastily, and follows a very thorough misconduct process and consultation with medical experts,” he said.
Guildford’s alcohol problems first emerged publicly when he was reprimanded by All Blacks’ management during the 2011 World Cup.
Just weeks afterwards, after New Zealand had won the tournament, he had a meltdown while holidaying in the Cook Islands, running naked into a bar and allegedly punching two men.
At the time, he announced a self-imposed 12-month drinking ban which he failed to maintain.
Guildford, who has played 10 Tests and scored six tries for the All Blacks, said he was keen to rejoin the Crusaders, who have struggled without him this season.