Guyton follows his rugby dream

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Lynn McConnell     23 Feb 2016     Getty Images

His story demonstrates it is still possible to achieve by taking the rugby backroads rather than the motorway and as he reflects on achieving Investec Super Rugby status he can look to two unlikely key moments in his development that led to where he is in Auckland today.

The first was when he was sighted by Marlborough Boys' College coach Kieran Keane playing halfback, as a fifth former, for Shirley Boys' High School in an inter-school game.

The second was when Guyton's mother wasn't happy with how his life was shaping and the company he was keeping in Christchurch, so she sent him off to Nelson College for the last year of high school.

After a season or two in Nelson where he wasn't making any progress he was advised by an uncle that there might be a chance if he moved to North Otago. It wasn't that far off his radar as he had been born in nearby Waimate.

"So I went down there and played three years for North Otago and had a couple of games for the New Zealand Heartland team," he said.

He had two years at fullback and then moved into second five-eighths for his last year with the Heartland union. In the meantime he had been played on the wing by the NZ Heartland coaches.

"Heartland rugby has a lot of hard, physical guys who are probably not as skilful and as quick but the physicality is there and they are not afraid to put their shot in. It's probably a wee bit dirtier too, as you'd imagine, but it's enjoyable.

"A lot of good guys come through there, they love rugby and that's why they're there, they just want to play. It's probably a wee bit slower and not quite as technically sound as ITM," he said.

In that last year in North Otago he began to think he might have more of an opportunity to a career at a higher level so he applied himself.

"I was out training until 11 o'clock at night trying to beat the other guys and it sort of paid off in the end," he said.

There was a time when he wondered if the extra effort had been worthwhile and he contemplated giving rugby away. But then a timely phone call from the Waimea Old Boys coach in Nelson changed everything. Some Tasman players had left the district and there might be a chance for him, he was told.

"I decided to do that as a second five-first five then ended up in a Tasman pre-season game where both our halfbacks were injured so Kieran Keane said, 'Righto Guyton, you're in there'."

Keane decided, having seen Guyton in that school game, that it would be easier to give him a chance rather than bring in someone else who didn't know the Tasman patterns.

"I jumped in there and did that and halfway through that first season I got a crack, and started, and it went from there," he said.

He was picked up by the Hurricanes for their wider training group and admitted to being 'a wee bit green' and didn't really know the position.

"You had to work a lot harder, you weren't just coming in every second day for training, you were coming in every day. And just the way you had to study other teams was a big step up as well and it was about being that professional person that I hadn't been before.

"I had a couple of setbacks, and it was a bit of a shock to the system but it was enjoyable and I learnt a lot about myself going into that environment and what it took and that started to grow me in the next couple of years and helped me out a bit," he said.

A year later he hadn't been picked up for Super Rugby but then chance intervened with the Crusaders.

"It just happened Andy [Ellis] was in Japan playing so Toddy [Blackadder] rang me up and said they had a spot to fill for the pre-season and was I available to come down and I said yes.

"Then unluckily Willi Heinz broke his leg in a pre-season game so I ended up staying for the whole season. I got to mix with a couple of the top guys.

"It showed me how professional the top guys were and the extra things they did around training and making themselves better and you can see why they were world-class players. I got taken under the wing a bit by DC [Dan Carter] who showed me a few of the ropes on the way and that was awesome from my experience," he said.

Then back at Tasman, who by this stage were making an impact in the Premiership of the national championship, he came under former All Black Jimmy Cowan's influence.

"Jimmy was good for me, because we had a similar sort of game and always to him, the flow of rugby was the most important thing.

"If you want to be fast don't lose the flow, and if you want to keep the flow that's when you're fast. He taught me lots with my kicking as well, box-kicking was another big difference for me. At the start I was a wee bit iffy about it but he came along and just said keep your head down and follow through. He taught me to look around the ruck to see my options and what lines to run and he was awesome for me," Guyton said.

"Tasman was great, a good bunch of guys and we all bought into the same thing. We were seen as unwanted from other provinces and we bought into KK [Keane] and Leon's [MacDonald] thing and gelled as a good big family."

Now he is with the Blues and finding out that Auckland has its advantages and looking whatever he can to help the side's recovery.

"Whether that is coming off the bench or helping out Sam Knox who is coming through or, if I get a start, making the most of that opportunity I get, that is my role," he said.

And how does his mother feel about it all since that move to Nelson?

"Mum is stoked with how it has all turned out," Guyton said.