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New Zealand rugby star Connor Garden-Bachop dies at 25 after a "medical event"

6/18: CBS Morning News
6/18: CBS Morning News 20:02

Otago Highlanders back Connor Garden-Bachop has died at age 25 after an unspecified "medical event," New Zealand Rugby said on Tuesday.

Police said they were called to the scene of a sudden death in Christchurch on Monday evening. 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," New Zealand Rugby 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," the statement said. "Most importantly, he was a loving father to his twin girls, a brother, a son and immeasurably loved by all those who knew him."

New Zealand Rugby Player Death
Connor Garden-Bachop of the Highlanders runs at the defense during the Super Rugby Pacific against he Western Force in Perth, Australia, April 22, 2023.  James Worsfold / AP

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

Highlanders team-mate Jona Nareki led the tributes to the winger on social media, posting on Instagram: "Rest in peace my brother. Love ya, my boy."

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.

New Zealand Rugby's statement included a verse in the indigenous Maori language which translates as "the house of rugby laments the passing of one of its sons who graced the playing fields. O Chiefly one, Connor. The rugby world weeps for you. Rest now in peace our friend.

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

The club 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."

Garden-Bachop's elder brother, Jackson, 29, plays rugby in France with second tier club Brive.

The team expressed their condolences on social media.

"It is with huge sadness that we have learned of the death of Connor Garden-Bachop... all our thoughts are with his brother Jackson, his family and friends," read the post.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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