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Maori All Black Garden-Bachop dies after 'medical event'

NEWS: Highlanders back Connor Garden-Bachop has died aged 25 after an unspecified “medical event”, New Zealand Rugby said on Tuesday.

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Police said they were called to the scene of a sudden death in Christchurch on Monday. It is not being treated as suspicious and will be referred to the coroner.

“Connor passed away on Monday following a medical event and rugby’s collective focus at this time is on supporting his family,” NZR said in a statement.

“Connor was a fantastic young player, an exciting New Zealand age-grade representative and a proud Māori All Black.

“Wherever he played, he was a committed and popular teammate with infectious energy and someone who could light up the room.

“Most importantly, he was a loving father to his twin girls, a brother, a son and immeasurably loved by all those who knew him.

“NZR, the New Zealand Māori Rugby Board, the Highlanders, Wellington Rugby and the Players Association are providing support and we ask that the privacy of the Garden-Bachop family is respected.

The son of All Black Stephen Bachop, Garden-Bachop played for the Highlanders in this season’s Super Rugby competition.

Highlanders teammate Jona Nareki led the tributes to the wing on social media, posting on Instagram: “Rest in peace my brother. Love ya, my boy.”

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Garden-Bachop played representative rugby for the Maori All Blacks and comes from a family of New Zealand internationals.

His mother, Susan Garden-Bachop, played for New Zealand’s Black Ferns while his uncle Graeme Bachop also played for the All Blacks.

Garden-Bachop made his debut for the Highlanders in 2021, going on to make 30 appearances in Super Rugby.

The franchise had said he was one of several players not returning next season.

In a recent post on Instagram, Garden-Bachop praised the Dunedin-based team after what he called “an unforgettable five years”.

“Thank you to everyone in the south for making me feel at home, and thank you to the boys I have been honoured to share the field with, it’s been a pleasure, I will miss you all. Till next time.”

Additional reporting: AFP

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