AUSTRALIAN World Cup star John Aloisi believes Ulverstone teenager Jeremy Walker is a trailblazer for Tasmanian soccer.
Nineteen-year-old Walker has become the first Tasmanian to earn a professional contract in the A-League and his Melbourne Heart coach said it was a proud day for his state.
"It's exciting for the people of Tasmania, it's exciting for Jeremy, but he deserves it," said Aloisi, who previously worked with Walker in Heart's youth team.
"Jeremy has illustrated that he has the ability for first-team football and has a great capacity to learn and work hard.
"He is a great character, follows instructions well and has good technique.
"Jeremy has developed well, but there is still plenty to learn and there are key areas where we would like him to develop further. Given his progression so far, we have confidence he can improve significantly."
In 2011, Walker joined Heart on a National Youth League agreement from Football Federation Tasmania's elite pathway and has just signed a one- year senior deal.
The full-back, who left Ulverstone for Hobart and then Melbourne while still at high school, said it was a dream come true.
"It is an honour to officially be a part of Melbourne Heart's first team and I'm very happy the coaches have put faith in me," Walker said.
"It's a highlight being the first Tassie player through the Tasmanian NTC program to be offered an A-League contract.
"It's good, everyone in Tassie is happy. The system is really good in Tassie - as soon as one person goes, a few more might."
Since replacing China- bound Socceroo Michael Marrone, Walker has played 11 matches for the Heart, registering a number of impressive displays including a man-of-the-match performance in the 3-1 win over Sydney where he went head- to-head with seasoned internationals Alessandro Del Piero and Brett Emerton.
Walker, who said he remained focused on today's showdown with A-league table-toppers Western Sydney Wanderers, admitted he had idolised Aloisi as a player and was delighted that the former Socceroo striker had become his mentor.
"Because he watched me play and obviously coached me, it made it easier to [make the transition] because we played the same [style of football] in the youth team as the first team so it was pretty similar adapting to the first team football."
FFT CEO John Boulous was thrilled to hear Walker had signed a senior contract.
"It is recognition of his dedication and commitment to the continued improvement of his game," he said.
"It is also a welcome reminder that our junior pathways are working and that we have the talent locally to match the rest of the country."