Rugby legend George Gregan says he is delighted to be touching down in Bahrain for the first time and helping to inspire young players in the kingdom.
He will be hosting coaching sessions with the junior stars of Bahrain Rugby Football Club this morning before taking to the stage in the evening at a special dinner event.
Scrum-half Gregan, currently Australia's highest-ever internationally-capped player with 139 caps, said: “I’ve never been to Bahrain before which I find really exciting. I love exploring new countries especially when it ties in with doing some grassroots rugby with HSBC.
“It’s a great game that allows you to travel the world and play at all levels. It’s a wonderful team sport that attracts all different shapes and sizes to play in a truly collective game. Playing rugby is a challenge but it’s also a lot of fun as you get to play with your mates!”
Gregan, 46, was born in Lusaka, Zambia and, after moving to Australia, made more appearances for the Wallabies than any other player in the sport’s history. He is respected throughout the rugby world for his tenacity, tactical skill, leadership ability and sportsmanship.
He played Super 14 for the ACT Brumbies since the inception of that competition in 1996, helping to lead them to overall victories in 2001 and 2004.
He made his first appearance for the Wallabies in 1994 and made an immediate impact for the team, making a try-saving tackle on All Black Jeff Wilson that directly led to Australia winning the Bledisloe Cup that year and is much remembered as one of the greatest moments in the Wallabies-All Blacks rivalry.
“I get asked about it a lot, especially around Bledisloe Cup matches,” said Gregan, “but that tackle was over 25 years ago, so Jeff and I have had a lot of time to reflect and enjoy what was a pretty special moment in rugby. By the way, I never tackled him again!”
In 2004 Gregan was appointed to the Order of Australia for his services to Rugby Union Football and in particular, as captain of the Wallabies.
He is now actively involved in the café and catering business – The Gregan Group, established in 1997 by his wife, Erica, who is the managing director of the business. Currently there are 24 outlets including cafes and bistros. He and Erica have three children, Max, Charlie and Jazz.
His charitable achievements may also help inspire the recently set-up Bahrain League Against Epilepsy, formed under the umbrella of the Bahrain Medical Society.
A dedicated centre to treat epilepsy patients in the kingdom with world-class therapeutic methods is among the visions of the new medical group.
In October 2004, Gregan announced that son, Max, aged four at the time, had epilepsy and he launched a foundation.
The George Gregan Foundation went on to raise huge sums of money to build outdoor playgrounds at several children’s hospitals. In addition to design, funding and building them, the foundation supported a Fellowship in Paediatric Neurology specialising in epilepsy.
“We have just shut down our foundation a few weeks ago,” he revealed. “We raised more than AUS$4 million over 14 years and built five all-access playgrounds in children’s hospitals, as well as supporting 18 Fellowships in the field of Epilepsy Diagnosis & Treatment. We are all pretty proud of these achievements.
“Our son, Max, has completed school this year and no longer has any epilepsy symptoms that need to be treated.”
Gregan will be spending 12 days in the Middle East and it’s not the first time HSBC’s youth, education and community rugby programme has reached the shores of Bahrain. Other stars the bank has brought over to the rugby club include England legend Jason Robinson.
“We are honoured to have George Gregan as HSBC rugby ambassador here in Bahrain,” said Melika Bentley, the bank’s CEO in the kingdom. “The grassroots event in Bahrain is another excellent example of our continued investment in young players and talent of the future.”
She added that HSBC has been investing in rugby sevens for a decade, a sport which has ‘the ability to bring great health, wellbeing and societal benefit to all communities’ it serves.