As the proverb goes: An old poacher makes the best keeper. This certainly applies to New Zealand bad boy Zac Guildford.
The troubled All Black may have a drinking problem and a gambling habit, but it has been revealed he is being looked after by a bookmaker.
It emerged, in the wake of his latest in a long line of booze-fuelled indiscretions, that Guildford has turned to a close friend and housemate, Stu Bailey, to get him back on the straight and narrow.
Guildford has effectively gone into hiding since allegations that he assaulted a partygoer at a Christchurch house on January 12, after a drinking and gambling session emerged this week.
Bailey, a 43-year old bookmaker, took Guildford into his Christchurch home after the Rarotonga incident last year and has taken him under his wing.
Bailey said Guildford was "embarrassed" but had "reached out" to the other party involved in the incident.
"There have been some apologies sent, received and accepted over what has happened so from that perspective I think we have moved on but we are talking about Zac, and the media have great interest in Zac and whatever he does these days, and he can't avoid that unfortunately," the bookmaker said.
"He has apologised for the indiscretion that happened but I guess it has been taken out of his hands and other people have decided they want something to say about it and that is the society we live in. Other people like to involve themselves in other people's business these days."
The complaint from the unknown third party soon after Guildford disclosed what happened to Crusaders' manager and mentor Angus Gardiner triggered the NZRU inquiry.
Bailey described the incident as "a mild indiscretion" and said a handful of Guildford's Crusader teammates had made contact to offer support and that "Zac has the backing" of his team and partner, jockey Sam Spratt.
"He has a great support crew and great partner and is misunderstood in the public arena where people perceive him to be a person that 99.9 per cent of the time he isn't."
Bailey and Guildford struck up a friendship via their mutual interest in horse racing.
"He is not just a flatmate but a close friend. I have given him a good place to live and good environment to live in. I am 43 not 23 and have been there and done that. We have all been young once but my days of going on the ran-tan are few and far between."
* Meanwhile the New Zealand Rugby Union has been accused of failing the under-fire All Black, Guildford.
The star wing was promised professional help and support from his employers after he ran naked and bleeding into a Rarotonga bar before assaulting two patrons in November 2011.
Bailey believes Guildford has been let down by a lack of support from the NZRU.
"I've not seen or heard anyone from the rugby union in the whole time that he's been living here," he said.
He's kept a watchful eye on him since, but he's disappointed the NZRU haven't kept close checks on him.
"Someone should've rung me every two or three months to ask if Zac was all right, if everything was going according to plan, of if I'd had any trouble? But, there was nothing.
"They could've rung me once a week if they wanted to."
Now, Bailey fears that Guildford will be "ditched" and his lucrative NZRU contract torn up.
"They've just gone on record too many times saying this is his last chance," he said.
The NZRU refused to discuss details on what support it was providing Guildford.
A spokeswoman referred to the statement made by NZRU Chief Executive Steve Tew on Sunday which said: "As his employer, we want to ensure that the process respects Zac's right to a fair hearing so we do not wish to comment further at this stage."
He didn't expect the 10-cap All Black to comment until after the NZRU hearing.
His manager Simon Porter said Guildford was shame-faced about the incident and he would be seeking professional help for his drinking problem.
After the Rarotonga incident, Guildford vowed to stop drinking for a year - but shortly before the year was out, he was photographed drinking beer at Ellerslie Racecourse while watching the Melbourne Cup.
A source close to Guildford said the latest incident occurred after he had been drinking at a property for "a couple of hours" before leaving to go on a gambling and alcohol "binge".
When he returned to the house and the alleged assault occurred, he had been "completely out of control", the source said.
The victim did not want to press charges and police were not called.
Guildford owned up to the incident to Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder two days later and is being investigated by the NZRU.
The 23-year old faces a crunch disciplinary meeting with NZRU officials, believed to be later this week, to decide his playing future in the country.
Asked whether he thought Guildford should quit alcohol for good, Bailey replied: "Anybody that has an issue with drinking obviously has to have a close look at it.
"The rugby culture is the rugby culture and there's always going to be a few beers involved, we know that, but perhaps it doesn't agree with Zac at a certain level."
He refused to say what exactly happened at the late-night party, but believed had been blown out of proportion.
"Young fellas make mistakes," he said, adding that he'd apologised to the alleged victim.
"Any given Saturday night anywhere around the country there will be a disagreement, or a scuffle, or a fracas, or however you want to say it, and in general terms we don't ever hear about it."
The return of his best friend Israel Dagg to the Crusaders training squad next week would be a huge boost for Guildford, Bailey said.
Several Crusaders players have phoned Bailey to offer support to their team-mate.
"If the rugby union are going to distance him from that support, in my opinion it'll be a huge mistake," Bailey said.
"I'd hate to see him thrown to the wolves."
Sources: Fairfax NZ News & APNZ
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