THE pain still interrupts Hymel Hunt's sleep.
"Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night, and my face is just throbbing," Hunt told the Newcastle Herald, three months after undergoing surgery to repair a fractured cheekbone.
"But it is what it is.
"Anyone who breaks their jaw or their cheekbone, the nerves get cut in surgery.
"They hope that eventually it will settle down, and I'll get used to it, but it might take months or years.
"The main thing is that my face is pretty much symmetrical. Dr Benjamin Ghaly did a great job. I can deal with the throbbing, just as long it looks normal."
The physical discomfort has been one issue, but the emotional angst at being unable to play was another altogether for the popular Newcastle outside back.
In his first three seasons at the Knights, Hunt was a model of consistency, playing in 61 top-grade games.
But a knee injury in a pre-season trial, followed by the head clash that shattered his face during his NSW Cup comeback in April, mean that Friday's clash with Sydney Roosters at McDonald Jones Stadium will be his first NRL appearance of the season.
"Obviously being on the sidelines has been tough," Hunt said.
"Just not being able to do my bit and help the boys, that's the hardest thing about football.
"I've missed a lot of games.
"I did my pec in 2016 and came back in about 11 or 12 weeks, but this is the probably the most games I've missed in a season.
"It's been hard to take, to be honest."
The 28-year-old returned to action in NSW Cup five weeks ago but has been biding his time behind wingers Edrick Lee and Dominic Young, who have delivered a combined tally of 18 tries this season.
He has won a hard-earned recall after Young suffered a rib injury in last week's 42-12 thrashing by Manly at Brookvale.
"I probably came back a bit early after breaking my cheekbone, but I just wanted to get back out there," Hunt said. "Footy, being what it is, if you're 90 per cent right, you still play.
"Once you run past that white line, you just give it 100 per cent."
On Friday, he expects to mark high-flying NSW Origin winger Daniel Tupou and is looking forward to the challenge.
"He's obviously dangerous when they kick to the corners, but I just have to get up there and contest with him," he said.
"That's the only way. I've played him a few times now, and I know what to expect, so it's the same plan.
"And my teammates can help with some kick-pressure and escorts. I know they won't let me down."
Knights coach Adam O'Brien said Hunt's recall had been "a long time coming".
"It's good to bring in a really experienced guy," O'Brien said. "I think it's important when you're coming up against a team like the Roosters.
"You want that experience out there, and it's fortunate that he's in pretty good form from his NSW Cup games."
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