CRONULLA veteran Chris Heighington is considering a swansong season with the Knights, joining Jacob Lillyman to provide the engine-room experience Newcastle have lacked in the past two seasons.
Heighington, who turns 36 in January, has reportedly been told by Cronulla they will not be retaining him after a five-season stint.
The Umina Bunnies junior is now considered a strong chance to join Newcastle, where he would be likely to link with another seasoned prop in Lillyman, who has parted company with the Warriors.
Lillyman, the 14-game Queensland Origin representative who turns 34 in March, is understood to have agreed to terms with the Knights on a one-season deal.
If Heighington and Lillyman were to join forces in the starting side, they would comprise the oldest front-row pairing to take the field for Newcastle, boasting a combined tally of 567 NRL games between them.
The oldest duo to start up front for the Knights were Willie Mason (34) and David Fa’alogo, in a last-round 40-10 victory against St George Illawarra in 2014.
In Newcastle’s past two campaigns, coach Nathan Brown has relied on young tyros, who have had to learn fast in the school of hard knocks.
This season Daniel Saifiti (21) and Josh King (22) were his starting props in eight games alongside each other.
In the last game of 2016, Saifiti and his twin brother Jacob became the youngest front-row partnership to start a game together for Newcastle in a 28-26 loss to the Dragons.
Only one player in the NRL, Sharks skipper Paul Gallen, is older than Heighington.
Heighington might be in the twilight of his career but his career record stands as testimony to his remarkable resilience.
In 16 seasons in the NRL, he has played in 317 games, averaging almost 20 appearances each year.
In his past three campaigns with Cronulla, he has racked up 23, 26 and 22 games respectively.
This season he was used mainly as an impact player by Cronulla coach Shane Flanagan, making all but two appearances off the bench and only twice playing for more than 40 minutes.
But in the process he averaged more than 90 attacking metres per game, carrying the ball more than 100 metres 10 times.
The Knights were interested in signing Heighington at the end of last season, but were unable to lure him away from the Sutherland Shire after the Sharks’ grand final triumph.
With a number of positions still unfilled on their 2018 roster, Newcastle’s priority is front-row reinforcements.
In the past 12 months, they have parted company with Korbin Sims (Brisbane), Sam Mataora, Josh Starling and Anthony Tupou (retired) and Jack Stockwell and Pauli Pauli (both released).
The only incoming prop they have confirmed so far is outstanding prospect Herman Ese’ese, from the Broncos.
They expressed interest in a host of high-profile pack leaders, in particular Matt Scott (North Queensland), James Graham (Canterbury) and Adam Blair (Brisbane).
Scott re-signed with the Cowboys, Graham accepted an offer from the Dragons, and Blair is reported to have secured a four-year deal with the Warriors.
Of the long list of Knights players from this season the club is yet to retain, home-grown back-rower Luke Yates is expected to accept a one-year extension.
Centre Peter Mata’utia, the only Newcastle player to appear in every game in 2017, is still weighing up his options.
The Knights are understood to have made him an offer for next year but his manager is exploring the market. There has been speculation that the 26-year-old is considering a move to the English Super League, although he has declared his preference would be to stay in Newcastle.