The grey hairs may say otherwise but at 29 years of age Chris Houston is eager to extend his career at the Newcastle Knights. Credit: Col Whelan. Copyright: NRL Photos
It's been a year unlike any other in his seven seasons in the NRL but Chris Houston insists he wants to stick around and help build the next chapter in what he believes will be a bright future at the Newcastle Knights.
Houston is one of a host of Newcastle players off-contract at the end of the season with Willie Mason already told his services will no longer be required and mid-season signing Sam Mataora reported to be in the sights of the Broncos despite Newcastle's eagerness to keep him. Veterans Timana Tahu, David Fa'alogo, Clint Newton and Matt Hilder are also without a contract for 2015 at this stage.
After starting his career at the Dragons in 2007 29-year-old Houston is eager to remain at Newcastle and help the club to put the horrors of 2014 behind them, the latest a 48-6 hiding at the hands of the Broncos.
"I'm off contract at the end of the year so hopefully I can sort something out pretty soon because it's getting towards the back-end of the season now. Hopefully within a week or two I'll know," Houston told NRL.com.
"I've enjoyed my time at Newcastle and I do hope to stay. It's going to be an exciting future for us. Change is sometimes as good as a holiday and I've worked with 'Stoney' (incoming coach Rick Stone) before and looking forward to working with him again.
"It is exciting, we're going to have a similar group with a lot of youth injected into the side and a new coach with some different ideas as well so it'd be great to be part of it."
Ever since Alex McKinnon suffered his serious injury in Round 4 the Knights have seemingly gone from one crisis to the next, a seven-game losing streak in the middle of the season derailing their push for a finals berth.
They then proceeded to win six of their next eight but the latest blow – losing representative forwards Jeremy Smith and Kade Snowden to the ASADA investigation late last week – meant that when Brisbane got out of reach on Saturday night, the emotional letdown caught up with them.
Newcastle conceded four tries in the space of 14 minutes midway through the second half and Houston hopes that the experiences of 2014 are not having too much of an adverse affect on young talent such as the Mata'utia boys, Chanel and Sione.
"No I haven't, not that I can remember anyway," Houston said when asked whether he had experienced a season such as this. "It's been pretty tough for us; we're getting some good results and we're getting a lot of bad ones as well and it is frustrating.
"[Chanel and Sione] are taking the losses as hard as anyone else and to see them so pumped one week and so disappointed tonight, not through any lack of form of their own but through the team's performance, it's heartbreaking.
"It's heartbreaking for us but seeing those guys, coming into first grade is not meant to be like this and they're doing it pretty tough."
In 16 games thus far this season Houston has busted through the 100-metre mark on four occasions, three of which came after starting on the bench. He has made 553 tackles at an average of 35 per game and says that after two big games at home to finish the season he will take stock of an ultimately disappointing season.
"I'll have to wait until I sit down and reflect on it," said Houston. "We're still in it so I'm not reflecting on it just yet so all's I'm concentrating on is trying to put two good home performances in for our fans in these next two games. After that I'll sit down and reflect on the season a bit but I haven't done that yet."