http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/sport/ ... 903763.ece
From The (UK) Times Online
November 20, 2007
Game mourns death of great after Mike Gregory loses his battle
Mike Gregory, the former Great Britain captain and Wigan Warriors coach, died yesterday after a prolonged battle with a neurological condition that had rendered him wheelchair-bound for the past year. He was 43 and leaves a wife and two young sons.
?Anyone who played with him, against him, or watched him play would have respected Mike for his courage,? Joe Lydon, his former Britain teammate and best man at his wedding, said. ?He brought that same courage to his fight against an appalling illness.?
Gregory?s wife, Erica, a biochemist, traced his condition ? progressive muscular atrophy, a form of motor neuron disease ? to a tic bite suffered while coaching the Britain academy squad in Australia in 2003 and the subsequent contraction of an infection known as borrelia, the causative agent of Lyme Disease. His illness forced him to give up the Wigan job after he had steered them to the 2004 Challenge Cup final and Grand Final the previous season.
His death brought an outpouring of grief last night from a sport in which he excelled as a fearsomely competitive player and a highly motivated coach. He was spoken of as a potential future coach of his country, whom he led to series victories over New Zealand in 1989 and 1990 during 20 international appearances, nine as captain.
Shaun Edwards, who went to school with Gregory in Wigan and played alongside him for Britain, said: ?On the pitch, he was a warrior. Off it, he was full of life, full of fun. As a coach, he was a guy who cared deeply for his players. It was heartbreaking to see him suffer recently. There have been a lot of [fundraising] events, which showed how much people thought of Mike.?
Although born in Wigan, Gregory spent virtually all of his playing career at Warrington, where a book of condolences has been opened, as the backbone of the side at loose forward for 12 seasons. He captained the team at Wembley in the 1990 Challenge Cup final defeat by Wigan, who had tried in vain to sign him in 1988.
If loyalty was one of his strengths, so was the stubbornness that came to define his latter years. He was assistant coach to Wales in the 1995 World Cup while pursuing a fruitless attempt to defy a knee injury that eventually ended his career after 18 appearances for Salford at the age of 31.
He began the Super League era in 1996 as assistant coach to Shaun McRae at St Helens. He then coached Swinton before moving to Wigan, initially as academy coach and then as assistant to Stuart Raper, whom he succeeded in July 2003 to take over what he referred to as his ?dream job?.
Gregory was aware of the seriousness of his condition only when he collapsed during the week of the 2003 Grand Final. His last game in charge of Wigan was the Challenge Cup final in Cardiff the next May, after which he stood down to have treatment in the United States, which failed to halt the remorselessness of his debilitating condition.