YOUNG North Queensland Fury star Isaka Cernak has confirmed he is quitting the club to join Melbourne Victory on a two year contract at the end of this season.
Cernak, 21, joined Fury from Brisbane Roar during the off-season, with the ambition of becoming a regular starter for the Townsville-based outfit and to represent Australia at the 2012 Olympics.
Under head coach Franz Straka, Isaka has taken the league by storm and has already achieved both goals - being a constant in the Fury starting line-up and having been selected in the Olyroos squad.
But with Fury's future uncertain and currently banned by the FFA from extending any of the contracts of their players who are all on one year deals except David Williams on a two year deal, Cernak has been lured south.
"This has been a very very difficult decision for me," he said today. "After the ups and downs of Brisbane, Fury took a chance on me and this is something I will be forever grateful for.
“Like any young footballer, I have dreams of one day playing overseas. Next season, Melbourne Victory will be playing in the high profile Asian Champions League.
"To be given the opportunity to play in this competition and for one of the A-League’s most successful clubs is something I couldn’t turn down at this stage in my career."
He added: “North Queensland Fury and the people associated with it, including the supporters, have been like a family to me and I will always be thankful and proud of my time at the club.
"However, I’m going nowhere until next April and I still have unfinished business here at Fury and I intend to play an important role in helping the team reach our first A-League Finals series.”
Melbourne Victory Football Operations Manager Gary Cole saying the club was thrilled to boost its playing stocks with a player of Cernak’s quality.
“We’ve been watching Isaka develop since he first started playing for Brisbane a couple of seasons ago and the more we’ve seen of him, the more we’ve liked.” said Cole.
“He’s an ideal player for us. He’s quick and he’s not afraid to take players on, which is how Melbourne Victory likes to play. We want our attacking players to run at defenders and he certainly fits the bill.
“Isaka had always shown flashes of brilliance, but he’s really matured into a consistent performer this year, and we think he’ll compliment our midfield perfectly next season.”
Fury's Head of Football Operations Robbie Middleby confirmed the move and admitted the club's frustration at losing the youngster.
“Myself and the club as a whole are bitterly disappointed that Isaka will move away from Fury at the end of the season," he said.
"Our strategy during the winter was to recruit the best young Aussie talent and give them the opportunity to play regular A-League football, which would in turn help them improve as footballers.
“Under the guidance and direction of Franz Straka, our young squad have made the A-League stand-up and take notice of what can be achieved with a clear vision, determination, team spirit and a small budget.
"I guess we should be flattered that there is a lot of interest surrounding our players and that bigger clubs are circling the talent we have identified.
“We will always follow Isaka’s fortunes with a keen eye and will wish him well in what we hope will be a long and successful career.”
NQ Fury Chief Executive Rabieh Krayem added: “This season, Fury hand selected players who we believed had real potential but weren’t being given the opportunity where they were or seemed lost in the system.
"To watch the growth and achievements of our young squad over the past three months has been extremely satisfying and is a testament to what can be achieved with the right personnel in place.
“All clubs have a duty to help produce the next generation of Australian representatives and to develop a squad which will help that club achieve its short and long term goals.
"It is naturally disappointing when larger or cashed-up clubs suddenly show interest in players they didn’t think twice about before and offer them contracts which clubs like Fury simply can’t match.
“This has been a difficult decision for Isaka and we wish him well for the future.”