HEAT’S ON: Newcastle Knights forward Chris Heighington sweats it out on his first day of pre-season training with the club on Wednesday. Picture: Max Mason-HubersTWO-TIME premiership winner Chris Heighington admits staying close to his ailing father, Tom, was part of the reason he came toNewcastle to extend his NRL career into a 16thseason.
And at the Knights, Heighingtonhopes he can himself be a father figure to the club’s young talent in what shapes as his swansong season.
Heighington, who will be 36 when the 2018 season begins,trained with Newcastle for the first time on Wednesday in what was the squad’s final hit-out before the Christmas break.
A grand final winner at Wests Tigers in 2005 and Cronulla in 2016, Heighingtonis 12thon the all-time ARL/NRL games list with 318 but said “there wasstillfire in my belly to go around again” after his Sharks deal ended.
He said “I probably would have played somewhere else” if not for the Knights’one-year contract, but he was glad to be withNewcastle.
“It’s a good squadhere, and it works really well for me,” Heighingtonsaid. “I grew up on the Central Coast and always loved the Knights, so it’s a great way to finish the back-end of my career.”
Heighington keen to guide young Knights TweetFacebookVeteran recruit Chris Heighington on his first day of training with @[email protected]@newcastleheraldpic.twitter南京夜网/7jWtHA17vM
— Craig Kerry (@craigkerry77) December 20, 2017
“There’s some great signings and I think we’ve got agood mix of youth and experience now,” he said. “Everyone’s bubbling out there on the field and more confident and there’s a good vibe around here.”
Heighington was open to what on-field role he would play and he was keen to offer value to the club off the park.
“It’s just good to be around young kids coming through and hopefully I can help them build their careers,” he said.“When I’m finished up or retired, they can excel.”
As for the potential of him next year joining Glenn Lazarus as a grand final winner at three clubs, he said: “There’s always a chance.
“In 2005 when we won the premiership, six or seven games into the competition we were paying $101 to win it, so it’s got that sort of feel to it, with the Benji Marshalls andRobbie Farahs, whowere young. [Now] it’s the Brock Lambs coming through, players like that,who will stand up.There’s a good mix of senior and some youth coming through, whichis very important.”
Past football, the forward plans to build a career in high-performance training which has already taken in helping back-to-back women’s world surfing champion Tyler Wright and men’s world No.5Matt Wilkinson.
As for playing on past next season, he said:“I’ll just do my best for the Knights next season and hopefully no injuries and stuff, but I’m not sure.
“A week is a long time in footy and I’ll just take it week by week.”
Heighington was confident he could bolster the three-time wooden spooners on the field, especially after his World Cup performance.
“That was a really tough game that actually, it wasone of the toughest I’ve been a part of, so to know I can still handle it at that level. I was pretty happy with that,” he said.
“I’ve played a few years now so hopefully I can bring some experience to the Knights and we can have a good year.”
As for thoughts of retirement last year, he said:“I haven’t had many injuries. I haven’t had any reconstructions and I haven’t missed many footy games and still mentally I want to do it. I love training still.
“A lot of people told me you’ll know when it’s time to retire, and I haven’t felt that yet.
“I’ve come a few days earlier than what I’mmeant to and still really enjoy it still, so that’s why I’m still here.”