AS if diabetes wasn't difficult enough to overcome, Brett Stewart has revealed that knee surgeons questioned whether he would ever play rugby league again.
After his second and most recent knee operation, called an Osteotomy, Stewart had to fight medical history to return as Manly Sea Eagles fullback.
"The surgeons told me there was a question mark over whether I would get back playing," Stewart said. "It's good to be back playing footy when you were told you might not make it.
"After the first operation, they said the second one was pretty major and it hadn't been done before by a rugby league player. I don't think any rugby league player has had it and then played."
An osteotomy is a procedure where a bone is cut to adjust its alignment.
"It's an operation mainly for older people with arthritis," Stewart said. "They re-align the knee.
"Usually arthritis is bone-on-bone but when they move the leg, it gives it a bit of space so it isn't bone-on-bone. There is less pain."
Despite the injury setbacks since 2010, Stewart is now fitter, keener and as fast as ever.
But he never feared for his future.
"No. I was still pretty confident," he said. "It hasn't been done before but I always had hope.
"I am only now getting back to the fitness I had before the injury. It has taken hard work. It's been a long road and all the medical staff here have been unbelievable.
"The pre-season was good for me, probably the best pre-season I have had in three or four years. So far, so good."
Stewart will a play key role in Sunday night's bumper match against the Newcastle Knights at Brookvale Oval. For now, his focus is purely on the Sea Eagles. Representative footy can wait.
"I definitely wouldn't rule it out but the club always comes first," Stewart said. "The rep stuff can take care of itself later in the year."
On the Knights, he said: "Newcastle must be doing something right to score 40 points (against Wests Tigers). It will be good to get back to Brookie."