Heighington praises 'special' Sharks kids
Senior Sharks forward Chris Heighington was struggling to walk after a frenetic and memorable 28-minute Auckland Nines golden-try extra time final, but he could still find time to praise breakout youngster Valentine Holmes.
With his fellow rookie Jack Bird having kept his side in the contest with a try in the corner right on full-time, Holmes faced up to a high-pressure sideline drop-goal conversion that he had to slot to level the scores.
The pressure was compounded by the 25-second shot-clock being trialled at the Nines; combined with drop goals being used rather than place kicks it had helped to make sideline conversions in the reduced format rarer than hen's teeth.
The 19-year-old grabbed the ball, ambled up and banged it over like he does it in his sleep to a massive roar from the packed Eden Park crowd.
"Oh mate, special, special," Heighington gushed when quizzed about the goal.
"He's an up and coming kid, there's a few coming through so it's a good future for the Sharks."
While hobbling through the post-match press area, Heighington called out to the assembled press: "Anyone got a spare pair of calves?" in a nod to the frantic mountain of defence his side had gone through before agonisingly succumbing after 10 minutes of extra time to a Matt King four-pointer.
With the try-a-minute nature of the Nines it seemed hugely implausible any team would ever defend their own line for five straight minutes, but Cronulla managed just that in a strong show of determination and a great sign for their NRL campaign.
"It was good, it was real inspirational, there were a few young boys out off the feet but we held strong, but obviously it was going to come sooner or later," Heighington said.
Heighington also said the Sharks could take some lessons from their Nines success back to the NRL.
"We probably need to start playing like the Nines in NRL, moving the ball a bit, giving early ball to our centres and wingers who have got [fast] feet, and they're big and strong," he said.