The travels of young Australian footballers’ are many and varied, and with Australia joining the Asian Football Federation it’s seen possibilities arise ever more.
The latest to take advantage of the “3 plus one rule” is former Western Sydney Wanderers and Newcastle Jets striker Joey Gibbs. The youngster showed signs during spells in the A-League but never found a consistent run in either New South Wales based clubs.
After a move abroad to explore a new football culture Gibbs tells Football Central he’s “really enjoying the change and the adventure of it all.”
Gibbs’ was used sparingly last season by former club Newcastle Jets, appearing in a total of four domestic games, and scoring the one goal for the club.
The youngster recounts on how the move to Asia arose with Hong Kong based club Tai Po.
“What triggered the move was a call from my agent who told me about the opportunity in Hong Kong,” the former Jets striker says.
“I always wanted to make a move to Asia but wanted to make a choice, which was right for me. Tai Po showed some interest and so that was that, and I decided to make the move.”
Gibbs now looks to go from strength to strength with his move to Hong Kong, hoping it may lead to more opportunities.
“My goal is to be successful with Tai Po in the present time, and hope my performances can be a launching pad to move on to a stronger Asian league,” Gibbs says.
The settling in period for Gibbs has been smoother at new club Tai Po with familiar faces surrounding him in the Hong Kong Premier League.
“I’m good friends with Jerrard [Tyson] from my time at the Wanderers and he told me all positive things about Hong Kong and the football here. It was good to be able to chat to Jerrard before I made the decision,” the young striker says.
“I caught up with Dylan Macalister who is enjoying his time here too, it’s good to have some Aussie footballers in the same league.”
Unlike some footballers’ this isn’t the first time the Gosford born striker has been away from home, making the transition to life in Hong Kong easier but still a bit tricky.
“Everything has been a breeze but the chopsticks which I have now mastered,” Gibbs says jokingly.
“The biggest challenges would be on the field with the style of referees, who are very strict compared to Australian football, the games end up being very stop start which can be frustrating.”
In the 22-year-old forward’s short career he’s played under some established coaches, most prominently under Asia’s current Coach of the Year Tony Popovic.
“I’ve been quite lucky to experience some of the top Aussie coaches in my eyes over my career,” he says.
“My time under Popa at Western Sydney opened my eyes a lot to new things. The perfectionism he applied to everything on and off the pitch and the mentality which is needed to be successful.”
Perhaps the perfectionism and winning mentality acquired during Gibbs’ stint at the Wanderers is why the youngster’s so eager to play regular football. But also to experience the Asian continents football and slowly climb up the ladder the hard way around.
“It was a move which many people may not have expected, but for me I felt it was important for me to play regularly and experience Asian football,” he says.
“I see [Tai Po] as a stepping stone to moving onto a league which is of higher quality, but I’m enjoying my time at the moment.”
The youngster now follows the road of so many Australians abroad searching for their break in world football, and at 22 his journey is still very much beginning.