NEWCASTLE Jets coach Arthur Papas helped transform Beqa Mikeltadze into one of the top two strikers in the A-League. Now he hopes to do the same with Trent Buhagiar.
The lightning-fast front man has signed a two-year deal with the Jets.
His addition comes a day after the Jets confirmed that Daniel Penha was departing to take up an offer in Korea at Daegu FC.
Buhagiar was one of 12 players released by Sydney FC after the Sky Blues missed the finals last season.
Only 24, the former Olyroo netted 21 goals in 74 appearances for the Sky Blues in all competitions.
He scored a double in a 3-2 win over Wanderers in a derby in April but has often been maligned for a lack of composure in front of goal.
Mikeltadze was not a prolific goal-scorer before touching down in Newcastle. He hit the target 13 times last season to be second only to Jamie Maclaren (15).
"Having watched Trent firsthand whilst at the Asian Champions League in Qatar two years ago, what impressed me was his speed combined with his timing to make runs in behind the opponent defensive lines," Papas said. "He ended up finishing top scorer in the group stages at the time, so I'm delighted he has decided to join the Jets. We believe that Trent possesses all the attributes to become quite prolific and help us to become even more potent in front of goals."
The Jets had the third best attack last season, yielding 45 goals. From that strike force only Mikeltadze and teenage sensation Archie Goodwin were retained.
As well as the addition of Buhagiar, the Jets are understood to have signed Wellington winger Jaushua Sotirio and are in talks with Macarthur left winger Rory Jordan.
Papas has at least two more imports to recruit. One will be a replacement for Penha.
In an emotional farewell video, Penha thanked the club, his teammates and fans who had given him "the most happiness in my life".
"I want to thank everyone at the Jets for the support you have given me and my family," he said. "I have a huge amount of gratitude to Arthur Papas for giving me the opportunity but much more than this. All the care he showed my family and especially for the time he took to help develop me as an individual and the team. He helped develop my career two to three years ahead and I am eternally grateful to him as a coach and person."
Penha joined the Jets from Brazilian second division outfit Confianca, where he was on loan from parent club Atletico Mineiro.
The livewire No.10 set the league alight, notching four goals and 11 assists.
Armed with a thumping left foot and South American flair, he also netted two goals in the Australia Cup.
Penha's future in Newcastle has been uncertain for months and Papas, who is currently in Greece, has been working on a back-up plan.
"I back the way we have gone about recruiting ... we look outside the box but I think we have shown we can be successful at it," he said.
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