Chris Heighington is looking forward to taking on the Wests Tigers again despite spending a decade with the club. Credit: NRL Photos Copyright: NRL Photos
As a man who bled black, white and gold for 10 years, Cronulla versus Wests Tigers is a bittersweet occasion for Sharks back rower and former Tigers stalwart Chris Heighington.
Heighington is one of a raft of former Tigers who have made their way over to the Shire in recent years, for a variety of different reasons.
Also at Cronulla, current Kangaroos forward Andrew Fifita began realising his promise when given a new lease on life by the Sharks in 2012. He followed this up with a breakout season to end all breakout seasons in 2013, earning Origin and Test jerseys and winning a World Cup.
He moved across after the 2011 season with fellow big man Bryce Gibbs as both were given leave to seek opportunity elsewhere while the club created space under the salary cap for Storm recruit Adam Blair.
Tigers fan favourite Beau Ryan also hit career best form for the Sharks in 2013 to rub further salt into the wound for Tigers fans, who in 2014 will also see Blake Ayshford move across to the Shire.
The plight of the Tigers – a 15th-place finish in a 2013 that was an underachievement by any measure – will bring no joy to the former Tigers lock, and Heighington doesn't hesitate to point out that as a Tiger for 10 years he still has plenty of good mates at the club. However, in welcoming Ayshford across to Cronulla, there is a hint of the disharmony that has resulted in so many Tigers jumping ship.
"Obviously with Blake coming over, he's a real talented player and they maybe weren't getting the best out of him the year just gone. Hopefully [Sharks coach Shane Flanagan] can do that and he's fit, he's training well and ready to rumble."
As for the game itself, there's always a little bit of extra incentive to get one over your mates.
"I looked forward to it last year [with the Sharks winning both meetings, 30-6 at Allianz Stadium in Round 9 and 36-22 at Sharks Stadium in Roundd 17]," he said.
"I played Tigers for 10 years so I'm not going to bag them, I still get on with heaps of them, I've got lots of real good mates there.
"I look forward to playing them, I look forward to playing my mates so I always look forward to playing that game."