Former All Black Zac Guildford opens up about depression and the death of his father

Publish Date
Saturday, 19 May 2018, 4:30PM
Zac Guildford. (Photo / Photosport)
Zac Guildford. (Photo / Photosport)

Former All Black Zac Guildford has opened up about his struggles with mental illness and the effects of losing his father right before his selection into the All Blacks.

Guildford appeared on TVNZ's The Inside Word, where he discussed losing his father at 20 years old.

The 29-year-old winger said on the show that he never truly had a chance to deal with his father's death and it is still something difficult for him to discuss.

"We were playing England in the 2009 under-20 world cup in Japan. We had played the final and we had managed to win that quite comprehensively in the end," said Guildford.

"I think it was about five or ten minutes after the final hooter I looked up into the stand, my mum was waving me up and she was in tears and I just automatically felt that something had gone wrong.

"I went up there and they were trying to resuscitate my dad. That was really tough. I just put myself on autopilot after that and I went 110 per cent at playing rugby because I wanted to make my dad proud."

That same year, Guildford made the All Blacks which he said didn't give him time to properly grieve his father's death.

"I think it was about ten days later I was back in the gym in Hawkes Bay. I just tried to park it all and leave it there. As things unfolded over time it wasn't the right thing to do," he said.

"Even now, talking about it is hard because I still haven't dealt with it properly."

Guildford said he turned to drinking to numb the pain. In 2013, he fronted the media about his problem with addiction.

"They made me forget, they hid my emotions which were obviously a lot of sadness, but happiness as well, when I was playing good rugby. I guess I was dead in my own mind - it was numbing me," he said.

"[It was] really daunting walking into the room. You know, what do these people actually think of me?

"Even now I have that feeling of anxiety, I walk into a mall or supermarket or something and you see people look at you and you think, are they looking at me as a rugby player or because of stuff I've done in the past that's not so good.

"I guess that feeling will always stick with me."

Guildford said he was "pretty soft" beneath his exterior persona and is still working on being more accepting on himself.

"I try and put on a front like I am rock solid and not much can break me but behind it all I've had to go and talk to people and get help - something I didn't do in my earlier days and I think it's about humbling myself, realising that I'm not made of this magic stuff and no one can break me.

"Part of that is owning it, realising there's no magic fix and to keep talking and to keep working at it and owning what you are good at and what you are not good at."


If you are worried about your or someone else's mental health, the best place to get help is your GP or local mental health provider. However, if you or someone else is in danger or endangering others, call 111.

If you need to talk to someone, the following free helplines operate 24/7:

LIFELINE: 0800 543 354
NEED TO TALK? Call or text 1737
SAMARITANS: 0800 726 666
YOUTHLINE: 0800 376 633 or text 234


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