Highly-praised Papua New Guinea product Eden Gebbie is finally set to join the Wests Tigers at Concord after COVID-19, police checks and visa approvals held up a move to Australia that was originally underway five months ago, per The Sydney Morning Herald.
The flexible fullback is set to join the Tigers in the coming weeks after prolonged discussions and delays surrounding his contract with Wests placed any move of the sort in jeopardy.
The 25-year-old returned to his native land during the pandemic-influenced lockdown and was expected to trial with the club in the pre-season before ongoing setbacks halted a trip down under.
I can’t wait until Edene Gebbie is playing regularly in the NRL.
He has Maika Sivo cult status potential if he can carve out a spot at Souths. pic.twitter.com/HJe3ZJhI6V
— Jason Oliver (@JasonNRL) November 16, 2019
Tigers coach Michael Maguire remained interested in Gebbie, meaning both parties would be bending over backwards in order to continue discussions and a partnership, with the PNG Hunters star having to trek outside of his local mountain village just to remain in contact with the club.
Adam Hartigan, the Tigers' football manager, revealed the degree of difficulty both Wests and Gebbie have faced since the opening dialogue of contract discussions.
“We started discussions at the start of October, and had it not been for COVID and quarantine, I would have personally flown over and brought him back,” he told The Herald's Christian Nicolussi.
“But we had to wait a while for his visa to be approved, then there were police checks, and just being able to contact him because he was in a village became difficult. Rob Kawaipa (Gebbie's Brisbane contact) told me we had to wait for him to catch public transport into town so he had proper phone service.”
Maguire revealed that those close to Gebbie have spoken very highly of his pace and professionalism, with the versatile back showing plenty of potential to apply his skill base to the NRL.
“I think he’s shown great form and the number of people and contacts we have in and around the Papua New Guinean space [say] that his potential is untapped,” Maguire said.
Wests Magpies will be a fun team this year with Edene Gebbie, Allan Fitzgibbon, Zach Dockar Clay, Kelma Tuilagi & potentially the likes of Talau, Tuki, Simpkin & Amone
— NBWT (@NBWT__) March 2, 2021
“He’s played a lot of fullback, he’s played on the wing, and he’s just quick.
“I spoke to him twice and the timing was always tricky because he was coming down from the mountains. I had actually stopped asking about him now because of the challenges we’ve had with COVID and everything. But I’m looking forward to seeing him.”
Gebbie is currently in quarantine in Brisbane after arriving in Australia and will initially join the Tigers' reserve grade.
The PNG international has represented Queensland Cup outfit Wynnum-Manly in the past, as well as a short stint with South Sydney's Perth Nines in 2020.