Experience a key asset for Wellington in 2017

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Lynn McConnell     10 Aug 2017     Getty Images

Knocked out of contention last year by the eventual winners North Harbour in the semifinals Wellington will again field one of the favoured combinations in the Championship.

First five-eighths Jackson Garden-Bachop, who has returned form a stint in Investec Super Rugby with the Melbourne Rebels, said, "It just goes to show that there's seven teams in the championship who can beat seven teams in the premiership on their day.

"You only miss out on two premiership teams, you're playing crossovers against everyone anyway so you've really got to be consistent through the whole year and we were for the most part last year but then it just comes down to that one game against a good team and Harbour ended up winning the competition," he said.


"We want to win the Championship. We want to get back into the Premiership, we feel like we didn't really belong there and Wellington, our fans, our families deserve to be out there supporting us in the Premiership," he said.

Garden-Bachop said he had made a deliberate decision to leave Wellington for a while and was fully committed to his role with the Rebels. He did keep in touch with how his Norths club was doing in the Wellington club competition as they enjoyed their best season for four or five years.

"Other than that I'm a bit out of the loop about who has been playing well and where they've been playing well," he said.

The exercise in Melbourne had changed his whole attitude toward the professional requirements of rugby and the demands of what had to be done every day in order to play consistently," he said.

"It was an eight-month season rather than just a three-month Mitre 10 Cup season and obviously playing the games hopefully coming back now I've got a lot more experience and a lot more time on the ball after playing at such a high level against a high calibre of player," he said.

While he is a free agent and not returning to the Melbourne Rebels, playing Super Rugby next year is still his goal.

"It's tough to crack it here. I couldn't do it last year and I have to come back and play even better than I have been and hopefully pick something up," he said.

Garden-Bachop said the on-going controversy over the future of the Melbourne side had been tough, especially toward the latter part of the season. But he felt they handled it well for the most part.

"We didn't really talk about it too much, we addressed it when it needed to be addressed but other than that we just focused on training and trying to play well," he said.

Back in Wellington he joined the club group who have been preparing for Wellington's campaign and said it looked a good group. They didn't get a win in their first pre-season game against Manawatu last weekend but they did work on the plans they had put in place and with key players still to return there was confidence developing.

"The side is probably a bit older this year which I think is a good thing. We've been pushing a lot of young talent, and there is a lot of young talent in Wellington, but we probably needed a bit of experience in those do-or-die games which we've got this year and we've got the likes of Dan Kirkpatrick coming back who played for Wellington in 2009 and Trent Renata and our Hurricanes players.

"There's a much better balance this year between young flair and cool old heads," he said.