AROUND 300 people filled the ground at Saddleworth Rangers Rugby Club in Greenfield to say their final goodbyes to legendary coach Mick Coates.
The popular 60-year-old passed away suddenly on May 27, leaving behind wife Tracy, children Michael, Liam and Jodie, and six grandchildren Ruby, Billy, Evie, Betsy, Luca and Reuben.
A poignant service was held at the clubhouse on June 18, with only family and friends allowed inside due to Covid restrictions, while the remainder listened to the broadcast outside.
There was gentle applause as the funeral cortege drew into the Shaw Hall Bank Road ground before the coffin was carried inside by family members.
Roger Fielding, officiating, said it was a “remarkable turnout for a very special man” who was a family man, successful businessman, sportsman and role model.
There were family tributes starting with granddaughter Ruby, who said Mick was “simply the best” grandad who has “taught me a lot of things but mostly to be strong”.
Sons Michael and Liam added their memories of the “most honest, hard-working, straight talking man you will ever meet”.
They thanked people for all the calls, cards, flowers and messages they have received which have been “completely overwhelming and means the world to us”.
They added: “He was a family man and always wanted the best for us and worked so hard to give us everything he never had”.
And they said he loved spending time with his six grandchildren and was “proud and honoured” to see everything they did.
Tributes were also paid by Sean Whitehead, open age coach at Rangers, who was coached by Mick and remembers him being “a firebrand but a warrior”.
“He’s left a fantastic family behind and that is a credit to him,” he added.
And Steven Mawdsley recalled stories of Mick at the club, where he had a never quit attitude and there was no such thing as can’t.
He added: “Thank you for being a great coach and a great friend. You were such a positive and meaningful influence on my outlook on life.”
Family members carried the coffin back out to the car for its final journey for Mick’s interment at Greenacres Cemetery.
The club was open later in the afternoon so people could raise a glass to a Rangers legend and friend to so many.
Mick, who was born in Derker, will forever be associated with the club’s most successful era when he coached the first team to three National Cup wins out of four final appearances in five years and a National League title.
Before that, he played in one of Rangers’ most talented ever youth teams alongside Terry Flanagan and Nicky Kiss.
An electrician by trade, he was described as a fierce and skilful competitor on the pitch whose no nonsense style earned him contracts at Rochdale Hornets and Swinton before a back injury brought his career to a premature end.
The professional game’s loss was Rangers’ gain as he set about building a team in the late 1980s and early 90s that set new standards in amateur rugby league. The pinnacle was the treble-winning team of 1992-93.
Donations in memory of Mick for British Heart Foundation can be sent c/o Pogson and Armitage Ltd, 53 Huddersfield Road, Diggle, Saddleworth OL3 5NT, tel: 01457 872149.