Michael "Mike" Keith Gregory (20 May 1964 – 19 November 2007) was an English professional rugby league footballer who played in the 1980s and 1990s, and coached in the 1990s and 2000s. He played for Warrington from 1982 to 1994, and won 20 caps for Great Britain. He was the head coach of Wigan.
|Full name||Michael Keith Gregory|
|Born||20 May 1964|
|Died||19 November 2007(aged 43)|
As of 2 April 2012
He made his début for Warrington on Sunday 5 September 1982, and he played his last match for Warrington on Saturday 12 February 1994, making 222 1st team starts and 24 substitute appearances and scoring 45 tries and a total points of 176. Gregory played and scored a try in Warrington's 14-36 defeat by Wigan in the 1990 Challenge Cup Final.
He captained a Great Britain tour to New Zealand. Gregory was selected to go on the 1998 Great Britain tour of Australasia, and scored a try as the Lions upset Australia in the third Ashes test in Sydney. He won 20 caps for Great Britain, and played once for the Rest of the World against Australia, in 1988.
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 Wigan's head coach Stuart Raper in July 2003, Gregory 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. Gregory 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 final was lost to Bradford Bulls.
In 2004, it became known 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 Gregory was still recovering from his illness.
Disagreement with WiganEdit
In September 2004 there were reports that his illness would prevent him from returning to his job at Wigan. Maurice Lindsay said that Wigan would continue to employ and pay Gregory while he was on sick leave and wait for advice from medical advisers.
Gregory felt that during 2004 he would be able to return but that 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 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.
Death and legacyEdit
On 19 November 2007, Having used a wheelchair for the previous year, Gregory died aged 43. In 2008, the RFL introduced the Spirit of Rugby League Award to recognise individuals who have made a significant positive contribution to rugby league, with the inaugural award being presented posthumously to Gregory. In subsequent seasons, the award was renamed in his honour to the Mike Gregory Spirit of Rugby League Award.
- "Statistics at rugbyleagueproject.org". rugbyleagueproject.org. 31 December 2017. Retrieved 1 January 2018.
- "Coach Statistics at rugbyleagueproject.org". rugbyleagueproject.org. 31 December 2017. Retrieved 1 January 2018.
- "1989-1990 Challenge Cup Final". wigan.rlfans.com. 31 December 2016. Retrieved 1 January 2017.
- "Hall of Fame at Wire2Wolves.com (archived)". wire2wolves.com. 31 December 2017. Retrieved 1 January 2018.
- "Warriors deny Gregory exit", BBC Sport, 3 September 2004
- "Former Lions skipper Gregory dies", BBC Sport, 19 November 2007.
- "Spirit of Rugby League Award in the name of Mike Gregory". Warrington Guardian. 8 August 2008. Retrieved 28 June 2019.
- !Great Britain Statistics at englandrl.co.uk (statistics currently missing due to not having appeared for both Great Britain, and England)
- (archived by web.archive.org) Mike Gregory website; accessed 1 September 2014.
- (archived by web.archive.org) Obituary in The Times, 28 November 2007; accessed 1 September 2014.
- (archived by web.archive.org) Hall of Fame at wire2wolves.com accessed 1 September 2014.
- Warrington's World Cup heroes – Mike Gregory
- (archived by web.archive.org) Online Book of Condolence, me.com; accessed 1 September 2014.