For a player who probably displays passion when he walks through the front door, Chris Heighington is remarkably casual about the turmoil at Wests Tigers in which he was nearly caught. Many at the Tigers consider Heighington the heart of their squad and would grimace at the prospect of the back-rower being ripped out. But midway through the season, there was some chance Heighington might have been forced to exit through the back door at Concord.
There was speculation Heighington could be shipped to the Penrith Panthers, along with winger Beau Ryan. The innuendo, which gathered steam as other players, Bryce Gibbs, Andrew Fifita and Tim Moltzen, actually did exit the building, was stifling, and the team was responded to it poorly.
Heighington insisted this week, before what appeared not so long ago to be an improbable finals campaign, that he was comfortable with everything that happened when it came to his future.
Asked how close he came to leaving, Heighington said: ”I’m not sure. When you lose footy games, stuff goes through your footy club like that. Now we’re winning and everything’s back on track, it’s a real good feeling at the club. This club’s been great to me. I’ve been here nine seasons, and I’ve got two more. I’ll see out that, and I’ll be a very happy man.”
The turmoil took its toll on the Tigers, and Heighington admitted he was disappointed over the losses of Gibbs and Fifita (to Cronulla), and Moltzen (to St George Illawarra).
”I’ve played with Bryce all my career,” the 28-year-old said. ”He came in 2003, when I did, and to see him leave is extremely disappointing. He’s one of my great mates. He’s playing some outstanding footy … Obviously Fifita is a big loss. He’s got potential, and I’m sure Cronulla will see the best of that. Obviously Moltzen – I think he’s going to be a star. That’s what the salary cap does. I’m real disappointed to see him go, but sometimes that’s just how it works.”