Garden-Bachop ticks boxes for professional rugby
Jackson Garden-Bachop can see the rugby pathway.
The Scots College inside back joined a distinguished group when he was named the College Sport Wellington boys' rugby player of the year.
The award does not come with any guarantees or contracts but recent history suggests that it ranks as a promising start.
The previous five winners of the College Sport award - Ardie Savea (Hurricanes), TJ Perenara (Hurricanes), Lima Sopoaga (Highlanders), Julian Savea (Hurricanes) and Buxton Popoali'i (Highlanders) - all have Super Rugby contracts this year.
All Black Victor Vito and Michael Hobbs have also won the award in the past decade.
Garden-Bachop, a New Zealand schools representative, headed off a strong field this month, with the Wellington College trio of Eti Sului, Vince Sakaria and Zek Sopoaga also making a mark at a national level.
"I was stoked to win that," Garden-Bachop said. "I expected to be up there but it was definitely going to be a toss-up."
Garden-Bachop, who did not miss a single game in four seasons with the Scots College first XV, has long set his sights on a career as a professional rugby player and will be sticking with Wellington next year
"Some [other] provinces showed some interest but I want to stay in Wellington. It's a good setup here. I'm already in the system and my family is here."
Garden-Bachop, who also plans to do some university papers next year, has finished his school first XV career but will get one more outing in the Scots' rugby jersey.
He will lead the Scots team at the national secondary schools sevens tournament, in Auckland on December 2, which will be televised live on Sky's Rugby Channel.
Scots, who will have their full squad available, probably had the most potent backline in the Wellington premier one competition this winter and won the regional sevens tournament, beating Wellington College in the semifinal and Bishop Viard in the final.
Their pool opponents in Auckland will be Mt Albert Grammar, who are the Auckland champions, Southland Boys' and Whangarei Boys'.
Garden-Bachop expects the leading northern schools to be tough opponents. "I remember watching the highlights on television last year and there were some massive players.
"We have got a good starting lineup and will try to do our best and have fun."
Wainuiomata High School, who will represent the Wellington region in the girls' section, are in the same pool as Epsom Girls', Kaitaia College and Southland Girls'.
Garden-Bachop has been getting plenty of sevens training, as he is also in the Wellington representative wider training squad.
"It's real fun but it's hard," he said. "You are pretty much having to sprint the whole time. The speed and the game plans are very different to 15s, apart from the set pieces."
Garden-Bachop has also been keeping his hand in at volleyball and was a member of the Scots team which lost the Wellington schools final to Mana College this month.
The Dominion Post