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Guildford considers his next move

By Jake Beleski

[email protected]

Former All Black Zac Guildford realises that proving himself off the field remains the biggest barrier to a return to rugby’s elite competitions.

Guildford, 27, was born in Greytown and returned to Wairarapa-Bush for their 2016 Heartland Championship campaign after playing seven matches for the New South Wales Waratahs in this year’s Super Rugby competition.

Stepping away from the media spotlight that comes with the life of a Super Rugby player had provided the chance to refocus, and work out what the next step in his career would be.

“I think it has [been beneficial]. It lets you go under the radar a bit and there aren’t as many cameras or egos around,” Guildford said.

There were also negative aspects to consider, especially when looking to climb back up the rugby ladder, he said.

“It’s great to get away from it all but it also means that not as many of our games are televised, so there are pros and cons to it.”

A number of off-field incidents had plagued Guildford’s career in recent years, but he was relishing the chance to prove himself to the rugby public.

“I think people are waiting for me to prove that I’m ready off the field, and I don’t know if Super Rugby was the right environment to do that. But if that opportunity [Super Rugby] comes knocking again, then I’m definitely available for that.”

He still had plenty of motivation to return to top-flight rugby.

“It’s hard to sit back and see other players getting opportunities, when you feel like you could possibly offer more.”

His season with Wairarapa-Bush came to an abrupt halt on Saturday, following their 58-26 semi-final loss to competition frontrunners Wanganui.

Guildford was philosophical after the result, and praised the effort of a dominant Wanganui side.

“We’ve got a great bunch of guys and great coaches. Everyone involved worked really hard – it was just a shame to stumble at the semi-final hurdle. Wanganui were just too good on the day.”

A decision to make a positional switch from his favoured wing position to centre was made early in the season, and had been a thoroughly enjoyable process, he said.

“I hadn’t actually played there since high school, but it was good to be a bit more involved and be able to add to the team more. It’s definitely something I’d like to do more in the future.”

The next few weeks would be used to work out exactly what his next move would be, but he was not short of options.

“Nothing is set in stone at this stage. I’ve had a few nibbles from here and overseas but will have to wait and see what pans out over the next few weeks.”

A return to the Heartland Championship with Wairarapa-Bush in 2017 was not out of the question, he said.

“I’ll be keeping fit in the gym and working on the farm. There’s a lot to work through over the next couple of weeks, but I’d love to be back with the Wairarapa boys next year.”

Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland is Wairarapa’s Local Democracy Reporter, a Public Interest Journalism role funded through NZ On Air. Emily has worked at the Wairarapa Times-Age for seven years and has a keen interest in council decision-making and transparency.

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