Melbourne Heart has moved to shore up its defence by snaring Young Socceroos centre-back David Vrankovic from the NSW Premier League.
With Curtis Good bound for English Premier League Newcastle United and fellow teenage centre-back Brendan Hamill signing for K-League Seongnam Ihwa, Heart coach John Aloisi sees Vrankovic as one of the pillars to fill the void.
The 18-year-old also stepped in for the injured Good at this month's AFC Under-22 Championship Qualifiers in Indonesia with coach Paul Okon having no hesitation in placing his faith in him.
Vrankovic, who is composed on the ball, decisive in the tackle and able to build from the back, spent two years with the NSW Institute of Sport team before being snapped up by Sydney FC's youth system under then coach Steve O'Connor, making his debut for the Sky Blues kids as a 15-year-old.
The Westfield Sports High School graduate switched to the Newcastle Jets briefly before being snapped up by NSW Premier League outfit Bonnyrigg White Eagles and he was tipped to sign for Sydney's second A-League club, Western Sydney Wanderers, before Aloisi stepped in.
"I owe the Bonnyrigg coach Brian Brown a lot for having faith in me and also Steve O'Connor for opening the door," said Vrankovic, who turns 19 in November.
"I was able to make the step up to play in the NSW Premier League against men and I haven't looked back since.
"Once I was able to play at such a young age, it got easier playing in the youth league so now I am looking to make the step forward and getting a first team contract with an A-League club."
That opportunity has now come.
Vrankovic becomes Heart's latest signing amid a flurry of activity which has seen striker Dylan Macallister's arrival rubber-stamped and the recent arrivals of Josip Tadic, Golgol Mebrahtu, Steven Gray, Patrick Gerhardt and Andrew Redmayne in preparation for the 2012-2013 season.
Goalkeeper Mat Ryan, defender Pedj Bojic and midfielder Oliver Bozanic look to have played their last games for Central Coast Mariners as the A-League champion faces a raft of departures.