Last year, during a Crusader's home game, as Zac Guildford undertook one of his typically diagonal runs through a gap a small voice rang out of the 'take a kid to footy' section: "Go you troubled young man!"
My (then 9 year old) daughter Phoebe was on her feet cheering the troubled young man as he sprinted, almost to the point of staggering, to the try-line.
When I asked her why she called him that, she said "well, Mum always calls him that 'troubled young man'".
After that moment, it became a constant refrain from our section to call out "go you troubled young man" whenever Guildford received the ball. Everyone knew of his troubles and such a description seemed apt. We all hoped that he would be able to sort out his troubles and play the type of rugby he is capable of. Yet all too often that sense of him getting the speed wobbles as he sprinted, ball in hand, seems to have slipped over into his off-field life.
Let's be clear. For a young man to lose his father, especially if they are close, takes a lot of time to get over- if they ever do. I speak from experience. My father died on my 18th birthday and it took many years for me to really come to terms with it. Like Guildford I turned often to booze to numb the pain. Yet also, and we need to remember this, I did so as part of the normal socializing of my age group. I binge-drank alongside future surgeons, doctors, lawyers, dentists, teachers, academics, politicians, businessman and high-ranking members of the armed forces. We worked hard at our studies and then binge-drank. Young men, especially in this country, turn to drink to cope with most things and when we experience a trauma we tend to drink more. We also need to be honest. Guildford's problem is not that he gets drunk but what he does when he gets drunk. If he was a happy drunk, a sad drunk, a blathering idiot drunk, a 'deep & meaningful" drunk, then no-one would really worry. It is because he appears to be an aggressive and violent drunk that the issues arise.
Just as in my student binge-drinking days we all knew who the angry drunks were and tried to avoid them.
What needs to be discussed is whether he was this type of drunk before his father died.
If he was always an angry drunk then that is the central issue. If he became one post his father's death then that is what needs to be dealt with.
The other question is one of whether his off-field drinking stops him performing on the field. Isn't this the real question. Likewise Piri Weepu's off-season binge-eating. Thinking rationally, doesn't Weepu's binge-eating have a far greater effect on his team, for longer, and on-field, than Guildford's off-field drinking and fighting? Guildford's off-field stupidity doesn't stop his team playing well; Weepu's off-field stupidity does.
Perhaps the solutions is for Guildford to leave a Crusader's environment where he doesn't seem to fit. The best thing for him would to be lent to Chiefs and put under the care of Dave Rennie and Wayne Smith. In 2012 they showed what they can do both on and off the field and both exhibit a pastoral care that is just what Guildford needs.
So we say "Go you troubled young man"- "go north to the Chiefs"- and if the NZRU has any sense that is what they would ask for.