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Former Lions skipper Gregory dies



Former Great Britain captain Mike Gregory has died after a four-year battle with a neurological disease, a family spokesman has announced.
Gregory, who was just 43-years-old, had been suffering from a form of motor neurone disease.

In 2004, the illness forced Gregory to leave his job as Wigan coach.

During a distinguished playing career, Gregory captained Warrington and Great Britain, including on a tour to New Zealand, and won 20 Lions caps.

The Wigan-born former Warrington loose forward, who had been confined to a wheelchair for the last 12 months, lost consciousness on Sunday and died on Monday.

It is believed Gregory's illness was the result of an insect bite while he was on tour of Australia with Great Britain's academy team in 2003.

It is thought the bite caused him to develop progressive muscular atrophy.

Gregory, who leaves a widow and two sons, played virtually his entire career with Warrington and also captained GB to two Test series victories over New Zealand.

The highlights of his international career included a long-range try in Sydney in 1988 to clinch the first British victory over Australia in a decade.

Warrington chairman Lord Hoyle paid tribute to Gregory, saying: "I was deeply saddened to hear the news of Mike's death and my thoughts go out to his family and friends.

"Mike served our club with distinction as a player for 12 years, including captaining Warrington in their last Challenge Cup Final appearance in 1990.

"His brave battle against illness and his efforts to raise awareness of progressive muscular atrophy has been an inspiration to us all. He will be greatly missed."

After his playing career, Gregory began the Super League era as assistant to coach Shaun McRae at St Helens, who lifted the inaugural ***le and twice won the Challenge Cup during his time on the staff.

Gregory then coached Swinton before joining the backroom staff at Wigan, initially as academy coach and then as assistant to Stuart Raper.

He succeeded Raper at his hometown club in July 2004 and, after guiding the Warriors to a an 11-match unbeaten run culminating in a Grand Final appearance, was given the job full time on a two-year contract.

In the following May, he guided Wigan to the Challenge Cup final but that was to prove his last match as he was forced to step down because of illness.

Gregory took Wigan to a tribunal in March 2006 over his departure and the club made an ex gratia payment of £17,500 to him.

In September of the same year, more than 5,000 fans turned up at Wigan St Pat's amateur rugby league club for a testimonial match which raised more than £25,000 for Gregory.

Former Wigan and Great Britain centre Joe Lydon said: "Anyone who played with him or against him or watched him play would have respected Mike for his courage.

"He brought that same courage to his fight against an appalling illness. We are all lucky to have known him."

Rugby Football League executive chairman Richard Lewis said: "Mike was among the best players of his generation.

"He set a shining example with the character, bravery and determination that he showed on the field of play."

Wigan chairman Maurice Lindsay also sent his condolences to Gregory's family, saying: "Mike's death is a sad loss.

"I was fortunate to be the Great Britain tour manager in 1990 when Mike was our captain. He was a leader in every way and was our most inspirational player during the Test series win against New Zealand.

"Sadly, illness prevented Mike from spending more than a year as Wigan head coach but we will all have great memories of him as an outstanding player."

(From BBC sport)

Rest In Peace mike.