Obituary : Mike Gregory Ex-Saints Assistant Coach

By Andy Wilson
Wednesday November 21, 2007
The Guardian

Mike Gregory's achievements in rugby league as a brave and skilful loose forward included the rare distinction of captaining Great Britain to consecutive series victories over New Zealand. As head coach of Wigan, he took his home town club to the Super League grand final and the Challenge Cup final in less than 12 months, despite suffering from the early symptoms of the neurological disease from which he has died at the age of 43.

Article continues
He will be best remembered for the try he scored in Sydney in 1988, galloping more than 70 metres and outpacing the Australian greats Wally Lewis and Wayne Pearce to seal an unexpected 26-12 victory for Great Britain, their first against the Kangaroos for a decade. Famously, he was able to ignore the supporting Martin Offiah, later explaining his thought process: "If I'm going to run all this way, I may as well score."

As for so much of his career, Gregory was carrying injuries, and was so anxious the night before the game that he had accepted an invitation from his unrelated namesake Andy, Britain's scrum half whose pass sent him away, to break his lifetime's rule and prepare with a couple of pints of Guinness. "It was one of the defining moments of my career," he conceded in Biting Back, the autobiography he compiled last year, largely so his sons Ben and Sam could better remember their father.

Ellery Hanley, his predecessor as captain, who lifted him back to his feet after the famous try against Australia to disguise his exhaustion, sought out Gregory in the Wigan dressing room at Cardiff's Millennium stadium before the 2004 Challenge Cup final - when news of his illness was starting to spread - and presented him with the cupwinner's medal Hanley's Wigan had denied Gregory's Warrington at Wembley in 1990. "I wanted him to keep my medal as a mark of the huge respect I have for the man," Hanley explained.

That 1990 Wembley appearance, when Gregory scored one try and made another in a 36-14 defeat, was the highlight of his 12 seasons with Warrington, for whom he had signed as an 18-year-old from the Wigan St Patricks amateur nursery after his local professional club showed no interest. He later played for Salford and had a season on Sydney's southern beaches with Cronulla before moving into coaching, with low-profile roles at St Helens, the struggling Salford side Swinton, and Wales in the 1995 World Cup until he joined Wigan in 2001. He took over as acting head coach midway through the 2003-04 season and earned the position on a permanent basis with a long unbeaten run that led to an appearance in the grand final.

But it was when he collapsed on the team bus on the way to Old Trafford for a press conference ahead of that final that Gregory first began to worry that something was seriously wrong. He had been suffering from lethargy, stiffness and occasional involuntary twitching since suffering an insect bite on a short trip to Australia as coach of a Great Britain sevens squad in January.

The exact nature of his illness was to become the subject of a bitter wrangle with Wigan after he informed them of his condition in March 2004, immediately after a Challenge Cup semi-final victory over Warrington. He flew to Houston, Texas, for treatment the week after the final, but insisted that the club should have been more sympathetic to his desire to return to work, and was offended by the assertion of Wigan's owner, Dave Whelan, that he had motor neurone disease. The dispute ended with the Gregory family taking Wigan to an employment tribunal, though a hearing was averted when the club agreed to pay �17,500 as a goodwill gesture.

Gregory's plight attracted an unprecedented response from the rugby league community, with numerous fundraising efforts to help provide for his wife Erica and his sons. Close friends insisted that he maintained the sense of humour for which he had always been renowned right until the end.

� Michael Keith Gregory, rugby league player and coach, born May 20 1964; died November 19 2007
 » Keiron is the 500th
POSTED ON: Fri 11th Dec 2020
POSTED ON: Tue 24th Nov 2020
POSTED ON: Tue 24th Nov 2020
 » Harry Pimblett dies aged 93.
POSTED ON: Sat 16th Nov 2013
 » The One and Only Steve Prescott
POSTED ON: Sun 10th Nov 2013
 » 50 Up for Anthony Sullivan
POSTED ON: Mon 3rd Jun 2013
 » Saints Verses August 2012
POSTED ON: Thu 30th Aug 2012
 » Len Killeen RIP
POSTED ON: Wed 2nd Nov 2011
 » Saints’ Heritage Society Newsletter – Summer 2011
POSTED ON: Wed 18th May 2011
 »  Saints’ Heritage Society Newsletter - Winter 2010
POSTED ON: Thu 7th Jan 2010
 » Tommy Martyn and Bernard Dwyer Enter Hall of Fame
POSTED ON: Wed 28th Oct 2009
POSTED ON: Wed 21st Oct 2009
 » Saints Heritage Society Newsletter June-July 2009
POSTED ON: Tue 16th Jun 2009
 » St. Helens Programme Fayre & RL Memorabilia Auction
POSTED ON: Fri 17th Apr 2009
 » Saints Heritage Society Newsletter January-February 2009
POSTED ON: Thu 1st Jan 2009
POSTED ON: Sun 14th Dec 2008
 » New Book about to hit town!!!
POSTED ON: Thu 9th Oct 2008
 » St Helens RL Collectors Fayre.
POSTED ON: Thu 15th May 2008
 » Obituary : Eric Ashton MBE
POSTED ON: Fri 21st Mar 2008
 » Obituary : Duggie Greenall
POSTED ON: Mon 24th Dec 2007
 » Obituary : Mike Gregory Ex-Saints Assistant Coach
POSTED ON: Mon 24th Dec 2007
 » Obituary : Arthur Pimblett
POSTED ON: Wed 4th Apr 2007
 » Brian Peers Desktop Photographs & Screensaver
POSTED ON: Sat 30th Dec 2006
 » Saints take all the honours
POSTED ON: Mon 9th Oct 2006
 » Newsletter October-November 2006
POSTED ON: Fri 6th Oct 2006
 » Special Cup Final Gallery
POSTED ON: Wed 30th Aug 2006
 » Sean Long Breaks Lance Todd Record!
POSTED ON: Sun 27th Aug 2006
 » The Greenall Scuffle
POSTED ON: Mon 7th Aug 2006
 » Try Milestones Approaching for Top Trio
POSTED ON: Wed 26th Jul 2006
 » May Newsletter
POSTED ON: Mon 8th May 2006
 » Tom Van Vollenhoven Special
POSTED ON: Sun 30th Apr 2006
 » Keiron Cunningham at 350.
POSTED ON: Fri 14th Apr 2006
 » Saints Newsletter March 2006
POSTED ON: Wed 1st Mar 2006
 » Saints Heritage Newsletter November 2005
POSTED ON: Mon 21st Nov 2005
 » Jamie Lyon 2005 Man of Steel
POSTED ON: Sun 16th Oct 2005
 » St Helens RLFC Special on SKY SPORTS
POSTED ON: Sun 16th Oct 2005
 » Tables
POSTED ON: Mon 3rd Oct 2005
 » Registration
POSTED ON: Fri 9th Sep 2005
 » Saints in Focus
POSTED ON: Mon 29th Aug 2005

Copyright © Saints Heritage Society 1999-2024.