After a career spanning more than 300 games and two premierships, Chris Heighington has finally decided to hang up his boots.
Heighington announced on Tuesday he would finish his career at the end of 2018 after 16 seasons in the NRL.
Having played 334 career games, including 201 matches for the Wests Tigers and 116 for Cronulla, Heighington will finish in seventh on the list of most NRL appearances if he plays in three of Newcastle’s final five matches.
He is just two appearances behind NSW coach Brad Fittler (336), with the 36-year-old Umina Bunnies junior among prestigious company. Only Melbourne captain Cameron Smith (376), Darren Lockyer (355), Terry Lamb (350), Steve Menzies (349), Corey Parker (347), Roosters halfback Cooper Cronk (341) and Fittler to have made more NRL appearances.
The veteran back-rower became just the 26th player to reach the 300th game milestone last season.
While mostly underrated and unsung, Heighington has had a career most can only dream of.
A two-time premiership winner with the Wests Tigers and Cronulla, Heighington has made representative appearances for the Prime Minister's XIII, Country Origin and the NRL All Stars. He was also eligible to represent England at the 2011 Four Nations, thanks to his British passport, playing seven times.
Heighington made his NRL debut as a starry-eyed 21-year old under Tim Sheens at the Tigers in the opening round of 2003.
He got himself a first-rate rugby league education at the Tigers under experienced forwards John Skandalis, Mark O’Neill and Ben Galea.
Heighington was disappointed to leave the Tigers when he was shown the door at the end of 2012. A mark of his loyalty, he had hoped to finish his career as a one-club player.
But the Tigers’ loss was Cronulla’s gain.
Heighington’s strong, positive character as well as his tough, uncompromising style on the field helped the Sharks towards their elusive maiden premiership in 2016.
He moved on to join the Knights at the end of 2017.
Heighington could play both of his former clubs before season’s end, with the Knights hosting the Wests Tigers on Friday night. Heighington could also return to Shark Park to face Cronulla in the penultimate round.
Date of birth: January 14, 1983
Junior club: Umina Bunnies
Clubs: Wests Tigers, Cronulla Sharks, Newcastle Knights
Games: 201 for Tigers, 116 for Sharks and 17 for Knights
Premierships: Two (Tigers in 2005, Sharks in 2016)
Rep honours: Prime Minister's XIII two games, NSW Country two games, All Stars one game, England seven games.