|Full name||Michael Keith Gregory|
20 May 1964|
Wigan, England, UK
|Died||19 November 2007(aged 43)|
|As of 2 April 2012|
||This article includes a list of references, related reading or external links, but its sources remain unclear because it lacks inline citations. (September 2014)|
Gregory had a distinguished playing career captaining both Warrington and Great Britain, gaining over 20 caps for the Lions. He captained a Great Britain tour to New Zealand. Gregory was selected to go on the 1988 Great Britain Lions tour. He made his Warrington début on 5 September 1982 and playing his last game on 12 February 1994, Making 222 1st team starts and 24 substitute appearances and scoring 45 tries and a total points of 176. Gregory's Testimonial match at Warrington took place in 1994.
Gregory started his coaching career as assistant to Shaun McRae at St. Helens. He spent three successful seasons at Saints between 1996–98, before taking the head coach job at Swinton. He later joined Wigan, taking charge of the Senior Academy in 2001. He led the youngsters to first place in the 2002 Academy Championship, before being promoted to assistant coach for the 2003 season.
Gregory had international coaching experience with Wales in the 1995 World Cup. He also guided the England Academy team to a historic series victory against the Australian Schoolboys in 2002. He was assistant coach of the Lancashire Origin squad for 2003 and was also appointed as head coach of Scotland for the 2003 European Nations' Cup.
Following the departure of head coach Stuart Raper in July 2003, Mike was appointed head coach until the end of the 2003 season. After Raper's announcement, Gregory had announced his intention to run for the job permanently. It was the first time since Colin Clarke, in 1985, that a Wigan-born man has coached Wigan. He spent three months as caretaker coach, remaining unbeaten for 11 matches and guiding Wigan to the 2003 Super League Grand Final - becoming the first side from outside the top two to make it all the way - before being awarded the job full-time on a 2-year contract. The grand finals was lost to the Bradford Bulls.
In 2004, it was revealed that Gregory had been suffering from progressive muscular atrophy, a form of motor neuron disease affecting his nerves and muscles which he had possibly contracted as early as 2001. The illness blocks signals from the brain getting to muscles, causing weight-loss and affecting speech. He went to the United States for a week in May 2004 for treatment. Ian Millward was appointed as head coach of Wigan while Mike was still recovering from his illness. It is believed that during rugby league duties in Australia in 2003, when Mike was a coach, he was bitten by a tick which was carrying an infection known as borreliosis.
In September 2004 there were reports that Mike's illness would prevent him from returning to his job at Wigan. Maurice Lindsay said that Wigan would continue to employ and pay Mike while he was on sick leave and then wait on advice from medical advisers.
Gregory felt that during 2004, he would be able to return but the club blocked his return to work. He took Wigan and the club's owner Dave Whelan to court claiming Wigan should have done more to help him carry on. The case was settled by the two parties out of court with Wigan agreeing to pay Gregory £17,500. After the settlement, Gregory said:
|“||I feel robbed of a once in a lifetime opportunity. I am Wigan-born and bred and I was very proud to be head coach of my home town team. As it is for players, it is for coaches, to represent your home town is a special privilege. The support of the players and fans has been exceptional throughout and this has been shown in many ways. If it had not been for them, I do not believe I would have been chosen for the head coach in the first place.
This was my dream job. I was proud to lead my team out into two finals. The supporters had belief in me and the team. I would never have betrayed this loyalty by returning to the job, if I felt incapable of doing it. My health was no different when I wanted to return to work than it had been at the Challenge Cup Final at the Millennium Stadium. However, I was 'frozen out' from that then on.
I feel the management of the club failed to do their duty as a good employer. Never once did I feel they were trying to aid my return to work. The continuing support of the fans and the players has made a horrific experience bearable and I thank you all.
Having used a wheelchair for the past year, Gregory died from the disease on 19 November 2007 with wife Erica, parents Joan and Keith, sister Christine and brother Philip by his side.
Honoured at Warrington Wolves
Gregory is a Warrington Wolves Hall of Fame inductee.
- Mike Gregory website; accessed 1 September 2014.
- Obituary in The Times, 28 November 2007; accessed 1 September 2014.
- Hall of Fame, Wire2Wolves.com; accessed 1 September 2014.
- Great Britain Statistics, englandrl.co.uk
- Mike Gregory statistics, rugbyleagueproject.org]; accessed 1 September 2014.
- Warrington's World Cup heroes – Mike Gregory, thisischeshire.co.uk; accessed 1 September 2014.
- Online Book of Condolence, me.com; accessed 1 September 2014.