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Rising New Zealand rugby star dead at 25 after ‘medical event’

Connor Garden-Bachop, a New Zealand rugby star who played for the Highlanders and the Māori All Blacks, died Monday after a “medical event,” officials said. He was 25.

Garden-Bachop was at a relative’s home in Fendalton, New Zealand, when he suffered the incident, Christchurch police said. 

“The death is not being treated as suspicious and will be referred to the coroner,” police said.

The All Blacks released a statement on Garden-Bachop as well.

“The house of rugby laments the passing of one of its sons who graced the playing fields,” the team said.

“It is with great sadness that we acknowledge the passing of Connor Garden-Bachop yesterday. He will be remembered as dynamic young player and popular teammate amongst the Māori All Blacks, Highlanders and Wellington.

Connor Garden-Bachop in Wellington, New Zealand

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“Our deepest condolences to Connor’s family, friends and teammates in this sad time.”

Garden-Bachop competed for the Highlanders in Super Rugby since 2021. He made 30 appearances for the club and scored 30 points. He made two appearances for the All Blacks in 2022.

“Connor was a fantastic young player, an exciting New Zealand age-grade representative and a proud Māori All Black,” New Zealand Rugby said in a statement. “Wherever he played, he was a committed and popular teammate with infectious energy and someone who could light up the room.

Connor Garden-Bachop in 2023

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

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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