Brisbane Roar have named striker Nicholas Fitzgerald, midfielder George Lambadaridis and left-back Corey Brown as the club’s full-time youth players.
Football Federation Australia regulations allow for three players young enough to play in the National Youth League to be paid full-time wages outside the Hyundai A-League salary cap.
Their two year contracts mean the trio will sit outside the club’s maximum of 23 Hyundai A-League squad members - currently at 20 - but will train regularly with the first team and will be available for selection by Head Coach Ange Postecoglou when required.
With the club set to embark on their maiden journey into AFC Champions League football at the latter end of the season, their contributions to the side could prove vital to Brisbane’s title chances throughout the lengthy campaign.
Fitzgerald, who has been a regular feature in the Roar’s pre-season fixtures and managed to find the back of the net on a consistent basis, was positive he could make an impact at Hyundai A-League level if called upon by the coaching staff.
“I’m very grateful for this opportunity and I plan on making the most of it,” the former Central Coast Mariners Youth player said.
“The boys have been great to me – Ezza (Erik Paartalu) and Shane (Stefanutto) in particular have really helped me and playing in front of guys like that you get a lot more opportunities to score which is great.
“I like playing anywhere up front, I like to try and get in behind the defender and get on the end of one of Thomas (Broich)’s passes.”
Lambadardis, a towering player capable of playing anywhere in the middle third of Brisbane’s formation, said he already felt as ease within Postecoglou’s football system.
The Melbourne-born midfielder spent 18 months in Belguim with Club Brugge’s youth academy before making the switch back to Australia earlier this year.
“It’s my first experience within a first team set-up and it’s been great since I’ve been here,” Lambadardis said.
“Since we’ve been here, we’ve been adapting to the coach’s system and the specific way he wants us to play which is unique compared to the rest of the league.
“We’ve been working hard so that when we are called up to the first team, we can slot into his system which is the most important thing.”
17-year-old Brown, an Australian representative at Under 17 and Under 20 levels, was confident the move back to his hometown was the right choice for his budding career.
“I’m very excited, I’ve only been here a couple of months but I’ve already got a feel for it all,” the Australian Institute of Sport graduate said.
“I’ve been learning a lot from all of the older boys, it’s been really good actually, I’ve been able to develop as a player even in these past two months.
“In terms of playing for the national team, this is the best place for me to be because there’s no better place to develop than the best team in the country.”
Postecoglou was pleased to have the three versitile players at his disposal and said he wouldn't hesistate in playing the young trio if needed.
“We certainly see them as players who can develop into really good first team players over the next two years of their contract and so far, I’ve been really happy with the progress of all three,” Postecoglou said.
“Because we’re rolling with a squad of twenty, and the Olyroos being away will have an impact on us so I’ll be very surprised if they don’t get a chance to play.
“We believe all three of them are capable of playing first team football should it be required this year and that’s certainly what we’ll be pushing for and I won’t be afraid to throw them in.”