Former All Black Zac Guildford says he sold his Rugby World Cup medal for ‘about $2000’ to feed gambling addiction

Bets of up to $25,000 on single races. Alcohol blackouts. smoking meth. An overdose attempt on antidepressants last October. Ignoring repeated “interventions”, including offers of help from New Zealand Rugby.

Zac Guildford has laid his life bare in a candid interview on the Runners Only with Dom Harvey podcast.

In an interview that is at times eye-opening, confronting, poignant and sad, Guildford also revealed for the first time that he sold his 2011 Rugby World Cup winner’s medal for a few thousand dollars just to keep gambling, the one addiction he says has been “consistent” throughout his life.

Zac Guildford in action for Waikato during the National Sevens tournament in 2018.

Hannah Peters/Getty Images

Zac Guildford in action for Waikato during the National Sevens tournament in 2018.

“Through my gambling addiction I sold a lot of them [medals],” Guildford said. “I’m gutted with that.

“It’s such a shit path addiction took me down. Those are the moments that really hit hard.

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“I think it was for two grand or something [for the Rugby World Cup medal], I was at that stage in my life where I was so caught up in addiction, and couldn’t see a way out, that gambling and finding peace through addiction was the only way forward.

“…it’s the scars of my previous life that I have to carry. I’m in the process of healing those. I know who they[themedals’havegonetoandIknowthey’rebeingcareofbutit’sthewholegriefstagepost-addictioniswhatI’mgoingthroughnowandIthinkhonestyisabigpartofthat”[themedals’havegonetoandIknowthey’rebeingcareofbutit’sthewholegriefstagepost-addictioniswhatI’mgoingthroughnowandIthinkhonestyisabigpartofthat”

Guildford, now 33, is currently working for Redemption Recruitment in Christchurch, while serving home detention until December.

The home detention order was put in place after Guildford was convicted of stealing about $40,000 from his grandfather, for gambling purposes.

Guildford’s heavy use of alcohol – he said that binge-drinking began in his teenage years – is well known.

In 2019, he assaulted a woman in a heavy state of intoxication, nine years after an incident in Rarotonga that earned him sporting infamy.

On the podcast, he also spoke about his use of cocaine, and revealed that he had also taken meth and abused prescription drugs.

However, while there were periods in his life where he could clean up his act with the alcohol and drugs, gambling was the one addiction that was with him on virtually a daily basis.

The theft from his grandfather was a direct result of that, and although Guildford has later paid the money back, the relationship was fractured until a recent rapprochement.

“I really, really, really stuffed up,” Guildford said. “I didn’t actually talk to me grandad for a long time.

Zac Guildford leaves court in Hamilton in 2020 after he was sentenced to two years of intensive supervision for punching a woman in the face.

Christel Yardley/Stuff

Zac Guildford leaves court in Hamilton in 2020 after he was sentenced to two years of intensive supervision for punching a woman in the face.

“But, in the last six weeks, have reached out and made that connection again.

“The first phone call was just me crying like a baby. We’ve had weekly phone calls and catchups after that, and our relationship seems to be well back on track.

“It was pretty powerful for me, just to put my hand up and own my shit. My grandad didn’t deserve that. Other people I’ve let down didn’t deserve that.

“He loves me, and I love him just as much. I grew up idolising him, and still do idolise him. We had each other’s back, and that crumbled that relationship for a little bit.“

Guildford has had numerous second chances in his life, with friends, relatives, coaches and team-mates aware that he suffered the traumatic loss of his father when he was playing for New Zealand under-20s in Tokyo in 2009.

Guildford acknowledged that people were now tired of hearing him promise that he had changed his ways, but said that an ADHD diagnosis in adulthood had allowed him to put some context around his impulsive behaviours.

“Getting that ADHD diagnosis was not an excuse, but I guess gave me more power around why I did some of the things I did over the years,” he said.

“That knowledge of self has been priceless in terms of moving forward.”

Where to get help

Lifeline (open 24/7) – 0800 543 354

Depression Helpline (open 24/7) – 0800 111 757

Healthline (open 24/7) – 0800 611 116

Samaritans (open 24/7) – 0800 726 666

Suicide Crisis Helpline (open 24/7) – 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO). This is a service for people who may be thinking about suicide, or those who are concerned about family or friends.

Youthline (open 24/7) – 0800 376 633. You can also text 234 for free between 8am and midnight, or email talk@youthline.co.nz

0800 WHATSUP children’s helpline – phone 0800 9428 787 between 1pm and 10pm on weekdays and from 3pm to 10pm on weekends. Online chat is available from 7pm to 10pm every day.

Kidsline (open 24/7) – 0800 543 754. This service is for children aged 5 to 18. Those who ring between 4pm and 9pm on weekdays will speak to a Kidsline buddy. These are specially trained teenage telephone counselors.

Your local Rural Support Trust – 0800 787 254 (0800 RURAL HELP)

Alcohol Drug Help (open 24/7) – 0800 787 797. You can also text 8691 for free.

For further information, contact the Mental Health Foundation‘s free Resource and Information Service (09 623 4812).

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