It’s been a long road home for Billy Guyton. Kayla Hodge finds out about his journey.
Eleven years ago, Billy Guyton was pulling on an Old Golds jersey for the first time, and had no idea what his future held.
The fullback and second five-eighth would go on to play 29 games for North Otago – including winning the 2010 Meads Cup – before linking up with the Tasman Makos.
Straight out of Nelson College, he had previously been part of Tasman’s academy programme, but felt it was not for him.
“I thought it was too soon for me, being a kid chucked under pressure like that. We weren’t given the right tools,” Guyton said.
When he returned after playing for North Otago, it was different games for the Makos from 2013 to 2017 and was transformed into a halfback.
“I never played any club rugby there, but all my professional rugby was at halfback, which is a different way to do it. I really enjoyed halfback. It gave me the confidence and self belief.”
He was picked up by the Hurricanes, and spent the following year with the Crusaders, before playing 24 games for the Blues.
And then it all came to a halt – he retired after concussions three years ago.
It was a tough decision and he started to push the game he loved away.
“It was hard to watch rugby for a long time too, because when you get passionate about something it can make you distant at the same time.”
He turned to club coaching in Nelson and Blenheim, and was then the skills coach for the Tasman Makos women’s side.
“It made me have a reality check on how I was actually coaching, because we didn’t do that well and I wasn’t doing very well at developing their skills as I wanted to.
“I was definitely a challenge for myself.”
As he looked for the opportunity to develop, North Otago Rugby coach Jason Forrest pointed out the Waitaki Boys’ High School’s director of sport job vacancy to him.
“I just thought it’s going to give me a lot of great balance over the coaching and all sides of the game, the relationships I’ll have to build with people outside of the school, working with other schools and how we can get the best future for these guys.”
Guyton was determined to help the pupils believe they could achieve anything, no matter where they came from.
“Once you get past school, it’s your own life to then take control of and as long as they know that, then I think they are going to be more successful in whatever they do. They’ll be more understanding of the world around them.
“Sharing knowledge, I think, is a great way for people to give back. I don’t think we do a lot of that in New Zealand.
“There’s a lot of great people around, especially in Oamaru. There’s been a lot of successful people in the past, and it’s been good now to connect with some old boys of the school that have been successful.”
Growing up in Waimate, Guyton played a variety of sports, from cricket to swimming, and believed that background set him up to help nurture the Waitaki district’s youth.
“I’m glad I had a well-balanced sporting background, I can share a little bit of advice and also help them understand where their minds are thinking at certain times, because I remember as a kid getting frustrated or upset with things, but that’s part of being a sportsman.”
He wanted to help install more equipment for Waitaki Boys’ pupils with special needs, and help all pupils reach their sporting potential, alongside their academic work.
“There’s a lot of rich history with the school. It’s trying to get the boys to believe that hey, this school can be a part of national titles.
“It’s getting a good balance of both worlds, because I believe we still need to stay active no matter where the sport takes us. It’s trying to teach that hunger but with humility and respect for everyone that’s involved.”
His first couple of months in the job had been a great challenge and helped him grow as a person.
“It’s like anything in life – I’ve got to put on my big shoes, and walk towards that challenge and not be afraid of it.”
While he had a lot of coaching experience, he wanted to let the current Waitaki Boys’ coaches continue as he could see great potential in them.
“We’ve got some great people right now and I can see if these guys stick around for a year or two and let them express themselves – I think they’ll do some good things for the school.”
He would be on hand for individual training and mental skills work, and would get involved in North Otago rugby where he could.
“I just want to be a part of the region that gave me my opportunities. There’s people around here that gave me work too and that helped me get good balance.”