Instead, he is a frustrated fringe player on the sidelines, caused by the visa restrictions which prevent him from playing for Warriors’ partner clubs Leigh and South Wales, and the fact over-age players are no longer allowed to play in academy games.
With the news that Richards is to depart Wigan and return to Wests Tigers at the end of the year, Gelling has the chance to put himself forward as a successor – but only if he can get game time which would probably have to be, ironically, at the expense of Richards in his swansong season.
Gelling, 22, has made only 12 Super League appearances, and just one in 2013, since joining from Auckland Vulcans 18 months ago, and is out of contract at the end of the year.
He will be a likely inclusion in David Fairleigh’s Cook Islands squad for the World Cup, where they will take on USA and Wales, giving him the chance to put himself in the shop window, should Wigan coach Shaun Wane decide against offering him a new deal.
Wane said: “I am hoping to keep him on board but what gets to me is him not being able to play. That is causing problems.”
In a year where the re-structured academy set-up and dual-registration partnerships have caused controversy, Gelling finds himself in a unique situation as a victim of the changes.