Evergreen Heighington to set age-old record for Knights
Chris Heighington will become the oldest player to make his debut for the Newcastle Knights when he runs out on Friday night in the Telstra Premiership against the Manly Warringah Sea Eagles.
It is understood the 36-year-old is the oldest player to turn out for a new club, if not in premiership history, at the very least in the NRL era. Former St George forward Billy Wilson made his debut for the North Sydney Bears in 1963 but had not yet turned 36 by the start of the season.
Even though he has played more than 300 first-grade games between the Wests Tigers and Cronulla Sharks and won two premierships, Heighington still admits to feeling nervous in the build-up to the season opener.
"I always get nervous before games even though I've been around for a while," Heighington said.
"I'm a bit nervous with a new club and with the expectation to win a few games.
"A lot of my family is coming down to watch so I am really looking forward to it."
At 36, the English international is the oldest to make his debut for the Newcastle club - ahead of Craig Gower at 35 years, 48 days and Anthony Tupou at 34 years, 31 days.
The forward will also be the first 300-game player dating back to the Knights inception in 1988.
He will become the third 36-year-old to play for the Knights joining Adam MacDougall and Jeremy Smith.
He suggests the milestones are being around younger players that keeps him youthful.
"When you're around these younger kids all the time, they keep you moving," Heighington said.
"If I am doing it, then they should be doing it as well.
"I still enjoy training and getting ready for games on the weekends so hopefully we can get a few wins."
Heighington said the Knights team has learnt some valuable lessons from the heavy defeat to Parramatta in the pre-season trial just over a week ago.
He admits that cohesion among the new faces will ultimately take time - but he is confident the squad has done all the preparation and knows what needs to be done.
"We are after at least 50 per cent of the ball and if we can go out and get that then we have the attacking players in our team to cause damage," Heighington said.
"So I've been encouraging the younger boys to go and have a red-hot crack."
Getting their hands on the ball will not come easy, according to Heighington, who concedes the Sea Eagles will be just as desperate to start the Telstra Premiership off on a winning note.
"We watched their trial against the Roosters and they played really well, so we're going to get up for it and hopefully all our fans can get out and support us," Heighington said.
He admits cohesion among the new faces will ultimately take time - but he is confident the squad has done all the preparation and knows what needs to be done.
"We have been doing all the work at training that we can," Heighington said.
"It's about putting it out on the field now where your heart rate is at the maximum.
"It might take time, but I am expecting us to play well."
Heighington said he will be looking to continue his work rate, in which the forward averaged 90 metres per game at the Sharks last season.
"My age is just a number for me," Heighington said.
"Yes, I'm getting old but I'm still enjoying it."