The Bronco Ben Hunt can't bear to face

The Bronco Ben Hunt can't bear to face

It's a hooker-halfback partnership stretching back some 15 years and makes Ben Hunt both excited and anxious about his scheduled Round 1 debut for the St George Illawarra Dragons in 2018.

The NRL confirmed on Thursday morning that the most high profile recruit of the year will wear the famous Red V for the first time in a premiership match against the team with whom he first signed with as a 12-year-old from Blackwater in central Queensland.

It was not long after joining the Broncos academy program that Hunt came into contact with an unassuming kid from Dalby by the name of Andrew McCullough, the pair sharing a decade-long journey that will next year pit them against each other for the first time.

The former housemates have thrown countless passes back and forth to each other since representing the Queensland under-18s and lining up for the Broncos under-20s for the first time in 2008 and there was no prouder person in the room when McCullough was named Brisbane's best for 2017 than Hunt.

It's why the prospect of playing against him next season is one that Hunt is dreading.

"I've been playing with him since I was 12 when we first played together so it's been a long time now and definitely going to miss him," Hunt told NRL.com.

In Hunt's first full season in the top grade in 2010 he spent the year serving as McCullough's dummy-half deputy from the bench and when the regular Broncos hooker went down with five games left in the regular season it was Hunt who again stepped into the breach.

Despite the pain of missing his side's run to the finals McCullough had amassed such a lead that he went on to comfortably claim his second Paul Morgan Medal along with sharing the Players' Player award with Josh McGuire.

"It was really special," Hunt said of seeing McCullough win the Broncos' top honour.

"He missed something like 10 games so if he'd played for the rest of the year he would have won by 30 points or something. He would have won so comfortably but it's just a reward for everything he's done.

"He's one of the hardest-working blokes I've ever seen, he puts in everything and to get that injury this year I know it definitely hurt him."

McCullough revealed recently in a column for Players Voice that as he struggled to deal with being sidelined with an ACL injury he kept a diary of his frustrations and "tiny, little wins".

It's a process most players must endure at some point during their careers and which teammates are virtually helpless to ease them through, no matter how much they endeavour to help ease their pain.

"I had no idea at all. It's something that I guess he just went about himself and did under the radar," Hunt said of McCullough's diary.

"I know everyone always gets the injured boys involved with whatever we're doing away from footy but it's never enough.

"There's that something inside a footballer that when they're sitting there watching a game and they know they can't play and they can't help their teammates out. It really hurts.

"That was the big one for him, knowing that when things weren't going the right way that he couldn't help."