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'I'm either going to end up in jail or dead... or get my life together'

By Ian Cameron
Zac Guildford of Waikato

Troubled former All Blacks star Zac Guildford has admitted that he is going ‘to end up in jail or dead’ if he doesn’t get his life back together.

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In March the 33-year-old, who represented the All Blacks 10 times between 2009 and 2012, was sentenced to nine months of home detention for fraud charges. It was the latest in a long line of criminal incidents revolving around alcohol abuse and a burgeoning gambling addiction.

In an interview with Newshub in New Zealand as part of mental health week, Guildford estimates that his vices have cost him millions and admits he is currently ‘broke’.

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Guildford is now six months sober and has also managed to kick his gambling addiction to touch for the time being, but has acknowledged that he sits in a precarious position.

“I’m either going to end up in jail where I don’t want to be, or dead, or I get my life together,’ he told NewsHub. “And I thought well, I don’t want to die yet, I don’t want to end up in jail, and this [being sober] is the only option left.”

Zac Guildford
Guildford during the Rugby World Cup in 2011

“I am sober. The last time I touched alcohol was March 16, class A drugs a bit before that, so early March, and gambling I broke that off on April 17.

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Shockingly, Guildford was found guilty of defrauding his grandfather to the tune of NZD 40,000 and a friend by NZD 60,000. He was also been found guilty of assaulting people in a bar whilst naked on the Cook Islands in 2011 and of punching a woman in a cab in 2019.

He also crashed a motorbike in Thailand before running off in another drink and drug-fuelled rampage in 2019.

However, it’s gambling that has been the most ruinous of his many addictions.

“I didn’t want anyone to know I was a gambler, the brokest All Black of all time, so I hid that pretty well,” he said.

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Zac Guildford
Zac Guildford with Wairarapa Bush in 2016. (Photo by Kai Schwoerer/Getty Images)

The gambling led him to defraud family members and he admits conning his grandfather was a personal rock bottom. It led Guildford to attempt to take his own life.

“I knew that the court was coming up and I knew that the country was going to know every single demon that I had. That was too much for me to handle. I had had enough. I’d had a gut full. I couldn’t see any way out.”

He spent three nights in hospital as a result but soon returned to his addictions. He was then convicted of fraud in March of 2022 and sentenced to nine months home detention.

“As an addict and a gambler, my idea was to double the money [taken from his grandad] and keep a little for myself and pay him back some interest. It didn’t work. I was a pretty s*** gambler.

“It was tough. It was definitely one of the hardest moments of my life,’ he said following his arrest on the matter. ‘I didn’t know what to do, I let my granddad down.”

A tearful Guildford would eventually make amends with his grandfather.

“I couldn’t talk. I just crying on the phone for 15 minutes. I said I’d give you a call back when I’ve got my s*** together.

“It shows how powerful addiction is,’ said Guildford.  ‘It takes no prisoners, it takes everything off you, strips your value, your worth, everything you were before and leaves you standing naked by yourself. It’s a pretty hard place to come back from.”

The former winger is hoping to stay sober but sees it as a huge challenge in New Zealand.

“This country is ruthless. It’s a tough place to get well.”

He will coach and play for Woodend Rugby Club just north of Christchurch – in 2023.

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