Former All Black Zac Guildford admits he contemplated suicide

The former All Black Zac Guildford says hitting rock bottom a year ago had him contemplating suicide.

Guildford's journey back to professional rugby has taken another step forward being signed to play for Waikato in this season's Mitre 10 provincial cup competition.

RNZI reports alcohol and off-field problems have plagued Guildford's career, culminating with the New South Wales Waratahs terminating his Super rugby contract last year.

He's also played for the Hurricanes, the Crusaders and the French club Clermont, where there were also problems during his stints there.

Last year the 28-year-old returned home to live with his grandparents in the Wairarapa and has slowly got his life back on track but admits he contemplated suicide.

"I definitely had those thoughts. I was in a pretty bad situation when I came back from the Waratahs and I wasn't in a good headspace. I needed to surround myself with family and good people and that's what has helped me get through," said Guildford.

"Hitting rock bottom this time last year definitely helped. I realised there were going to be no more contract handouts and if I wanted to keep playing rugby I had to work bloody hard so I went away and played for (Wairarapa-Bush) and have come to Waikato through the Sevens competition... so I'm very grateful."

The sudden death of former Australian international Dan Vickerman in February has also brought the topic of mental health to the fore in rugby.

Guildford played 11 tests for the All Blacks between 2009 and 2012 and was a member of the 2011 world cup winning side.

"No one's running away from it and when people come forward to speak about it, people are applauding them... and that's what we need in rugby, more guys coming forward, because it's not all sunshine and lollipops in professional rugby - we are just normal guys," he said.

Ultimately Guildford hopes to regain a Super rugby contract but knows he will have to prove to New Zealand Rugby that he has overcome his personal issues.

After talking with New Zealand Rugby General manager Neil Sorenson earlier this year, Guildford said they have made it clear he still has some way to go.

Guildford has been working with mental health campaigner Mike King and says he would like to become more involved in helping young people with mental health issues.

"Some of things the kids struggle with I can relate to and if I can help them then that would be nice," he said.

"It's always easier hearing from someone who has been down a similar path and has struggled...but I still have a lot of personal development to do before I can really help those kids."

Guildford said he never pictured himself living in Hamilton but after the approach from former All Black Roger Randle to come and play Sevens he's pleased he made the move.

"Obviously Sevens isn't paid (at provincial level) and I didn't have any work so he (Randle) managed to find me a job and accommodation through Hamilton Old Boys Rugby club and I have been here since and l love it."