Heighington channels Tigers great Pearce - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Heighington channels Tigers great Pearce

21/09/2010 04:57:45 PM Comments (0)

Wests Tigers lock Chris Heighington will be channelling Balmain great Wayne Pearce when he plays for an NRL grand final berth in his best season yet.

The tough No.13 received the former Test forward's seal of approval back in the Tigers' premiership year of 2005, something that has buoyed his confidence ever since.

It helped Heighington to something his occasional mentor never quite managed, a premiership ring, and he is throwing his energy into doubling that achievement in 2010 if his side can get past St George Illawarra on Saturday night.

"He taught me a lot in '05," Heighington said.

"He pulled me aside and wouldn't say too much but the words he said I really took in.

"He's a great fella to know and he was a great player and he's a great legend of this club."

Pearce, who played 18 Tests and 15 State of Origin games for NSW, famously captained the Tigers in consecutive grand final losses in 1988-89.

Heighington is considered unlucky not to have graduated to Origin level with his own uncompromising style, at times resembling Pearce but for the lack of tape around the head.

He was last year described by star playmaker Benji Marshall as the "heart and soul" of the joint-venture club, another parallel with Pearce.

The 28-year-old says Pearce's words to him five years ago were simple and to the point.

"Just little things, just giving me confidence, just telling me you're going well and all that sort of stuff," he said.

"If a legend tells you that, you can take it in and you can build off that.

"I really look up to him, especially when I was a kid watching him play and then obviously coming here to play."

The Central Coast product debuted in 2003 but truly emerged in the unforgettable run to the title two years later.

"I got the opportunity and it was a dream come true to play in the grand final and to come through off the bench then as a young kid," he said.

"We haven't made the finals since so that's been disappointing but we get this opportunity again and hopefully we can make the most of it and claim another grand final."

As much for the likes of Pearce, whose devastation after the heartbreaking 1989 loss to Canberra is one of the game's enduring images, as himself or his team-mates.

"They're legends of the game and if we win I'm sure they'll feel proud as well and they'll feel like they've won in a way as well," Heighington said.

Tigers coach Tim Sheens has named an unchanged starting side for the ANZ Stadium preliminary final against the Dragons.

Hooker Robbie Farah and halfback Robert Lui both suffered corked quad muscles in the 26-24 win over Canberra but are certain starters, while Gareth Ellis' back injury continues to improve.

Tigers: Mitch Brown, Lote Tuqiri, Blake Ayshford, Chris Lawrence, Beau Ryan, Benji Marshall, Robert Lui, Todd Payten, Robbie Farah (capt), Keith Galloway, Liam Fulton, Gareth Ellis, Chris Heighington. Interchange: Ben Murdoch-Masila, Daniel Fitzhenry, Simon Dwyer, Bryce Gibbs, Mark Flanagan, Andrew Fifita (two to be omitted).

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