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Goodbye Mike - Australian Rugby league News
globalrugbyleague - Sat, 24 Nov 2007 15:23:00 GMT
Former Great Britain international Mike Gregory left behind an incredible journey to re-tell when he passed away aged 43 on November 19, 2007.

Once described as a ‘national hero’, Mike Gregory leaves behind a legacy many in both the English Super League and National Rugby League would be envious of.

And why not? To this day he remains the last captain to lead the British Lions to back to back series wins over New Zealand in 1988-89.

Born in Wigan on May 20,1964, the future coach kicked off his career with Wigan St Patrick’s amateur club.

While his hope was that he would one day represent his hometown, the Warriors did not show enough interest in him until it was too late.

By then he was committed to the Warrington Wolves.

It should noted though that the early days of his sporting pursuit were not easy one’s.

Described as being ‘almost skinny’, this physical set-back ensured he had to put in extra training sessions to achieve the required build.

That hard work however eventually paid off. In 1982-83 he took out a Lancashire Cup-winners medal with Warrington.

Over the next twelve seasons, Gregory made 222 appearances as well as 24 in the role of a substitute, scored 45 tries, won a premiership trophy in 1986 while captaining Warrington to their last Challenge Cup final against Wigan.

His international debut against France in 1987 marked the beginning of a famous Test career with the British Lions.

To this day, the most talked about performance by Gregory representing his country remains the 80 metre try he scored against Australia in 1988.

Playing for an injury ravished side that had already lost the Ashes series, Gregory took a pass from Andy Gregory on his own 20 metre line and ran the length of the field, choosing not to pass to Martin Offiah on his outside.

"I was thinking 'If I'm going to run all this way, I may as well score," Gregory mentioned in his autobiography Biting Back in 2006.

After that try, Great Britain went on to win 26-12 and claim their first victory over Australia for the first time in 10 years.

Leaving Warrington to head to Salford in 1994, Gregory soon retired and switched his energies into coaching.

His coaching career started out with a bang when he was appointed as an assistant St Helens’s mentor Shaun McRae in 1996.

He was knighted with the head coaching gig at Swinton in 1999 but quickly found himself in the deep end very early on when his new side went down 106-10 against Leeds in the Challenge Cup.

Not long thereafter his contract was not renewed.

Starting out at Wigan as under 21’s coach, the sudden departure of head coach Stuart Raper provided Gregory with another gig in the position of head coach.

Within 12 months he took the candy canes to appearances in the Super League final and the Challenge Cup.

Unfortunately despite all being well out on the field, the same could not be said behind the scenes.

The beginning of the neurological disease that would eventually kill him had begun to take a noticeable toll.

Difficulty with speech and movement would eventually force the inspirational former forward to take time off to receive treatment for progressive muscular atrophy

Wigan eventually decided he was unable to return to work.Gregory disagreed and took the club to a tribunal under a Disability Discrimination Act where he won a 17,500 pound settlement.

Despite struggling against great odds in body, in spirit Gregory lost none of the on-field heroism that served him well during his career.
Former Great Britain team-mate Joe Lydon told a British newspaper: "Anyone who played with or against him, or watched him play, would have respected Mike's courage.
"He brought that same courage to his fight against an appalling illness and we are lucky to have known him.
He leaves behind his wife Erica and sons Ben and Sam.

Michael Gregory, rugby league player and coach: born Wigan, Lancashire 20 May 1964; married 1995 Erica Mather (two sons); died Wigan 19 November 2007. - Read More, Here