Interview with Gregg Warburton: „I haven’t really ‘looked’ to become a leader or anything like that.“

Gregg Warburton is a well-established member of the GB Men’s team, the team that won gold at the 2018 World Championships in Hamburg with Gregg becoming men’s MVP. Since the World Champships, he has moved to Badajoz, Spain to play for Mideba Extremadura in the FEDEDDF Division de Honour. He relocated alongside GB teammates Abdi Jama, Phil Pratt and George Bates after being a part of the GB centralised programme in Sheffield for a year.

Rollt’s English-speaking Content Producer Dylan Cummings asked Gregg some questions about his life in Spain so far.

“My life in Spain so far playing for Mideba Extremadura has been a lot of hard work but very enjoyable. We’re working and training very hard every day to push to be the best. Of course, being undefeated so far and winning games helps with this. It’s been a very enjoyable experience and I’m loving the city, the people and adapting to the culture.”

Gregg spoke about his goals for the season, saying:

“My goals for this season, selfishly, are to attempt to win any and as much silverware as possible. However, we knew that in this league, with it being so competitive, that this would be extremely difficult. Now 5 games in, our attitude hasn’t changed, and it’s been a game by game objective rather than a season long one. We’re just focused on building this club up, improving the facilities, fan base along with a few other things to ensure we’re competing on all fronts to challenge the traditional ‘big boys’ in Spain.”

Following on from this, he talked about Mideba’s chances of winning the Division de Honour:

“It’s very difficult to say this early on in the season who will win any competition, especially one so vast and deep like the Spanish league. Form is an ever-changing thing but, we certainly feel that we can beat any team put in front of us on our day and we’ll work hard to be right up there when it comes to that time of the season.”

Gregg was asked if he was disappointed that Mideba were competing in the lower IWBF EuroLeagues compared to the Champions League:

“We’ve actually been moved up from EuroLeague 3 to EuroLeague 2 qualifiers which because of the points system we use in Europe to seed teams makes it difficult for us. Obviously, we want to compete at the top. However, I was aware of this situation before joining and in my eyes, it’s part of the process to building up this team that finished 8/10 in the league last season, to hopefully compete in the champions league in the future.”

There are a lot of GB players playing in the Division de Honour, Gregg is used to playing alongside GB teammates, but Rollt was interested to find out whether he found it strange playing against the likes of; Terry Bywater, Gaz Choudhry, Lee Manning, Kyle Marsh, Dan Highcock etc.

“For me it’s still strange being in the same team as guys I idolised 5+ years ago when playing and training for GB but yeah it’s great. We go up against each other a lot in training and at camps for GB and as you can imagine the high level and competitive nature makes it very intense. So, when it comes to being on opposing teams in competitive league games, we all give everything to come out on top. The level of respect and love we all have for each other is clear during games, even in high pressure situations and moments.”

Gregg was asked about what he thought were Mideba’s weaknesses …

I think our main weakness at Mideba which many would point out is our overall strength in depth as we have quite a small squad and we haven’t got the resources of say an Illunion or Albacete. They have world-class international players filling their bench. Our coach, Jorge Borba has assembled a really good squad with a mixture of youth and experience who can be relied upon when needed. This has helped set us up to succeed over the long season.”

… and strengths:

“I think one of our main strengths is the togetherness and family-feel this club has along with a young and innovative coach allowing us to express ourselves, which for a team with a lot of young guys is really good because we have no fear going into any game or situation.”

Our English-speaking Content Producer, Dylan is a long-time admirer of the GB teams and when he watched Gregg play for the GB U23s, he saw Gregg as the leader of the team. He asked Gregg if he felt like he had assumed that same leadership role at Mideba to which Gregg replied with an interesting insight on leadership:

“I haven’t really ‘looked’ to become a leader or anything like that. I’ve always considered myself somewhat of a follower, despite captaining the U23’s. Leadership in my eyes isn’t just about one person or a captain, it comes from the whole squad at times and I’m always using my experiences from captaining other teams and from previous captains I’ve had in the past to benefit and support the team wherever possible.”

He then expressed his future plans with Mideba:

“I haven’t got an outlined plan with Mideba, just taking it one game at a time and we’ll see where that puts us at the end of the season. I’m very happy here and we’re being very well looked after. I’m pleased to be playing here and look forward to representing this club every game.”

This led him to talk about his future plans with GB:

“For GB we have training camps once a month where we train together as a squad. My personal goals are to be playing at the highest level I can possibly be at and give myself the best chance to be selected for the European Championships in 2019. Then if selected, continue to work extremely hard and to perform at our best as a squad and have success.”

Mideba often have to travel long distances for game days sometimes via Portugal. Gregg, Abdi, Phil and George have to travel back to the UK once a month for GB camps. We asked Gregg if the amount of travel was taking a toll on him:

“The travel is just part of the job and the life and you just have to adapt to it. Spain is very different to when I played in Italy as the journeys for away games can be very long. With some away games taking over 10 hours by bus. However, these are made as painless as possible with our own big and comfortable team bus. Knowing you have a tough game at the other end of the journey helps keep you motivated.”

“As for coming back for camps with the national team, we’re lucky as a nation that we have a lot of time and contact together compared to other national teams. It’s great to come back together and see all the guys, the staff and work really hard on maintaining our chances of competing at the top level of big international competitions.”

As previously mentioned, Gregg was the men’s MVP at the 2018 World Championships, to finish off Rollt. asked him about his overall experience in Hamburg:

“My overall experience of Hamburg was phenomenal. Everything from experiencing a bit of the city to coming away with the gold medal after beating the reigning Paralympic champions. It’s important for us to make this just the start of a very successful era. Being number one in the world puts a huge target on your back and we know that every team in the world is now gunning for us. We have to do everything in our power to ensure that, come the Europeans and Tokyo we’re in the best shape possible to continue to be successful.”

Rollt. would like to thank Gregg Warburton and British Wheelchair Basketball for allowing us to conduct this interview. Stay tuned for more English-speaking content coming soon to Rollt.

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Profile – Gregg Warburton

DOB > 19/11/1996 (age 22)

Hometown > Leigh, Wigan, Greater Manchester

Classification > 2.0

Disability > Double-leg amputee with hand impairments

GB Senior Debut > Rio 2016 Paralympic Games

Current Club > Mideba Extremadura, Spain

Former Clubs > The OWLS, UK Manchester Mavericks, UK HS Sport Varese, Italy

Career Highlights > (So Far) World Championships 2018 – Hamburg, Germany – Gold and MVP U23 World Championships 2017 – Toronto, Canada – Gold European Championships 2017 – Tenerife, Spain – Silver U22 European Championships 2017 – Lignano Sabbidoro, Italy – Silver Rio 2016 Paralympic Games – Rio de Janeiro, Brazil – Bronze U22 European Championships 2014 – Zaragoza, Spain – Gold

Interview: Dylan Cumming | Photo: Steffie Wunderl

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