Troubled All Blacks winger Zac Guildford’s admission that he is an alcoholic played a huge part in the New Zealand Rugby Union’s (NZRU) decision to continue his professional rugby career.
Guildford admitted at a media conference on Thursday that he was an alcoholic and said he accepted he had challenges that would stay with him for life.
“I think my understanding was limited around alcoholism and the issue I had. That’s the first step, admitting I was powerless over alcohol and, once I realised that, everything became a bit easier,” he said.
“I don’t think I need sympathy – I’ve made mistakes and now I’m just looking forward to bettering my future.”
The decision comes after the NZRU met Guildford and his representatives in Auckland on Wednesday, after a misconduct hearing on Tuesday.
Guildford says his turning point came during a month-long stay in a rehabilitation facility.
“The first step was acceptance. I went away to a facility for 28 days where I learned lot. I guess I went in there thinking I knew it all, but I didn’t.
“And that’s when I got out of the denial stage and started accepting who I am.”
In January, the 11-Test All Black withdrew from the Crusaders indefinitely after being involved in the latest alcohol-related incident to blight his career.
Guildford had previously been called before the NZRU three times in 18 months on alcohol-related issues.
The troubled winger ran into problems while on holiday in Rarotonga in November 2011, and vowed to give up alcohol after a naked, drunken night out in which he allegedly harassed a female jogger and then, after shedding his clothes and with blood streaming from his head, attacked two men in a bar.
The NZRU’s general manager of professional rugby, Neil Sorensen, said the decision wasn’t reached lightly or hastily, and followed a “very thorough” misconduct process and consultation with medical experts.
“Zac’s under no illusion this was a really close call,” Sorensen said.
“Termination was absolutely on the table, even up until last night. It wasn’t easy and it certainly wasn’t pre-determined.
“In fact, I think an easier decision would have been to terminate – I think we’ve made a tough decision but the right decision.”
No further public statements will be made around the details of the misconduct hearing or the basis on which reinstatement was granted, Sorensen added.