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NRL's Sharks praise 300-gamer Heighington

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 31/03/2017 Steve Zemek

Even after reaching the prestigious 300-game NRL milestone and winning premierships with two clubs, Chris Heighington isn't satisfied.

The 35-year-old Cronulla workhorse will become the 26th player -and only the third current player after Cameron Smith and Cooper Cronk - to join the 300-game club when he runs out for Saturday's home clash with Newcastle.

Despite not being a household name like fellow 300-gamers such as Smith, Cronk, Darren Lockyer, Terry Lamb and Brad Fittler, Heighington has crammed a lot into his 15 seasons in first grade.

Coach Shane Flanagan praises him as an ornament to the game and prizes his refusal to rest on his achievements as the Sharks eye the rare feat of back to back premierships.

"To win one premiership is an achievement but then to play 300 games and to win two comps," Flanagan said on Friday.

"Chris keeps talking about how he wants to win a third comp too. Hopefully it's this year for him."

Heighington made his debut in 2003 for the Wests Tigers, helping to win the joint venture's first premiership two years later in a side led by Benji Marshall and Scott Prince.

After 201 games at Concord, he shifted to Sharks in 2013, playing a part in their maiden title success last season.

Heighington is mulling over extending his career in 2018, a move that could put him into the top 10 on the all-time games played list.

While not considered a superstar, the tough-as-teak forward is well liked and highly regarded by peers.

Flanagan hopes they can help him celebrate his achievement in style.

"We spoke about it during the week, about doing it for one of us," Flanagan said.

"He's an important part of our club and I don't think there's a more popular player in our club. He's a pleasure to be around and coach.

"It's an enormous achievement, especially in the forwards and the way he plays.

"And he's an ambassador, there have never been any troubles around Chris Heighington, he's a great footballer and great person."

NRL ALL-TIME MOST GAMES PLAYED LIST

Darren Lockyer (355), Terry Lamb (350), Steve Menzies (349), Corey Parker (347), Cameron Smith (339), Brad Fittler Penrith (336), Cliff Lyons (332), Nathan Hindmarsh (330), Andrew Ettingshausen (328), Geoff Gerard (325), Jason Croker (318), Hazem El Masri (317), Paul Langmack (315), Luke Priddis (315), Steve Price (313), Brent Kite (313), Ruben Wiki (312), Petero Civoniceva (309), Brett Kimmorley (307), Cooper Cronk (305), Anthony Watmough (303), Anthony Minichiello (302), Luke Ricketson (301), Scott Prince (300), John Morris (300), Chris Heighington (299)

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