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Newcastle prop Chris Heighington.

Chris Heighington lasted only about an hour after the Wests Tigers historic 2005 grand final triumph.

"Tipped a beer over Paul Sironen's head... put to bed two hours later... a bit too excited," Robbie Farah grins.

Only a few years earlier, Heighington played a few games outside a 40-something Cliff Lyons - rugby league's Keith Richards in more ways than one - playing for his home town of Umina.

Now with 334 games, 8,000 tackles and 30,000-plus running metres on the odometer, Heighington is winding up at season's end and lining up against the Tigers and Farah one last time on Friday night.

It's his 16th season at the top level, and his first with the Knights. NRL Stats say he'll wind up at the age of 35 and ahead of Brad Fittler (336 games) at number seven on the all-time first grade appearances list..

Farah says differently, thanks to a sleight of hand fit for Cliffy's own front bar fodder.

"Heighno changed his age on Wikipedia to make everyone think he was younger," Farah alleges.

Heighno would be 36, he'll be 37 in January but for many years he had everyone believing he was born in 1983 not '82 so when it came to negotiating contracts he was trying to make people think people he was a year younger. 

Knights v Wests Tigers - Round 21

"We saw it and I was like mate you're two years older than me not one... and he was like 'Shhsh...'

"Me and Dene Halatu picked up on it. It probably worked actually, he's still running around isn't he?"

The tale of Heighington's bid to get that first top-grade run was told at nearly every Tigers pre-season under Tim Sheens.

The kid on a $5000 train-and-trial deal, who ignored the bushfires bearing down on his family home on the Central Coast, jumped a ferry, then a bus, and a taxi in a four-hour journey to make Tigers training.

That same pre-season, still training and trialling, Heighington vomited down his shirt front and kept on slogging rather than pulling up during a torturous road run.

Rare determination saw Heighington first make it in the NRL in 2003. Rare character sees him treasured by teammates, opponents and fans right up until his last match in 2018.

"He's one of those blokes you love having at a footy club," Farah says.

"You notice when they are gone. We had a few characters in this [Tigers] squad in 2010-2012. Heighno, Bryce Gibbs, Beau [Ryan] left and you notice when they are gone.

 "They make it enjoyable to come to work every day. They are fun to be around. People are attracted to them. I noticed the massive hole when Heighno and those boys left." 

Former Wests Tigers Chris Heighington (R) in their triumphant 2005 season.
Former Wests Tigers Chris Heighington (R) in their triumphant 2005 season. ©NRL Photos

The yarns keep coming. Like the expletives in everyone's favourite post-grand final interview, his childhood hero Matty Johns looking to the heavens as Heighington's enthusiastic F-bombs went out to a couple of million viewers at home.

Most of the yarns can't be printed in full. Like the Gold Coast bender during the mid-2000s with his then-Tigers teammates, with premiership rings and the rugby league world at their feet...

Heighington is battling after a couple of big days and bigger nights...

"Heighno is like 'I need a sugar hit, I need a sugar hit. I need something to get me up a bit'," Farah laughs.

"He walks into a 7/11 [convenience store] and comes out with a Pepsi Max. He didn't realise it was sugar free."

Off he goes in a month's time. The sugar hit every club needs.

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National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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