Wellington Phoenix have rewarded teenage goalkeeper Keegan Smith with a three-year professional contract for his impressive start to the season.
Smith has been chosen as Wellington's No.1 so far this season, keeping Lewis Italiano on the bench.
The 18-year-old has looked shaky at times but has made a number of big saves for the side, with plenty of trust put in him from coach Darije Kalezic.
“I don’t think any of us could have imagined how quickly this all happened,” said Smith.
"It’s been a whirlwind but I’m just grateful to the coaches and the older boys in the team, they’ve really been fantastic, giving me little bits of advice – those words do go a long way, and they stay in your mind.
“It’s every young footballer’s dream to sign a professional contract – it’s been a long-time goal of mine so I’m delighted to sign with Wellington Phoenix given the opportunities I’ve already had this season, and I’m looking forward to keeping on working.
“I still have to work a lot – being a young goalkeeper I’ve got a few areas of my game to improve, doing the extra yards after training with Fernando [vaz Alves] and the other boys – and just learn as much as I can.”
Kalezic added: “Keegan is a young Kiwi goalkeeper from our Academy, who has the best qualities to support our way of playing.
“He has tremendous self-control and is remarkably calm for one so young, he has very sharp reflexes, his vision when in possession is excellent – he has the ability to pick the right pass even under pressure.
“He’s already showed with his distributional quality that he’s improving our team. He is of course still very young – the youngest keeper in the A-League in fact – but we are confident with more game time he will improve very much.”
Smith's first year of the deal will continue to be as a youth player, with the professional deal kicking in from 2018/19 onwards.