Highlanders' Garden-Bachop dies at 25 after 'medical event'

Highlanders' Garden-Bachop dies at 25 after 'medical event'

Otago Highlanders outside back Connor Garden-Bachop died on Monday following a medical event, New Zealand Rugby said. He was 25.

Garden-Bachop, who made his Highlanders debut in 2021, was on the team's roster this season but parted ways with the Super Rugby Pacific club after their campaign finished in the quarter-finals.

He thanked the Highlanders on social media last week for an "unforgettable five years."

New Zealand Rugby and the Highlanders paid tribute to Garden-Bachop on Tuesday in a joint statement with the New Zealand Maori Rugby board and the country's players' association.

"All of rugby walks alongside the Garden-Bachop family at this time and we are collectively united in our grief," the statement said.

"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 team mate 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."

Garden-Bachop, who represented the Maori All Blacks in two tests against Ireland in 2022, was born into a family of rugby internationals.

His father, Stephen Bachop, played for Samoa and New Zealand and his mother, Sue Garden-Bachop, played for the New Zealand women's team, the Black Ferns.

His uncle, Graeme Bachop, played at two World Cups (1991, 1995) for the All Blacks and represented Japan at the global showpiece in 1999. His cousin, Aaron Mauger, was also a regular for the All Blacks in the early 2000s and coached the Highlanders from 2018-20. REUTERS

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