NRL: NZ Warriors recruit Kurt Capewell savours first taste of life at Mt Smart

NZ Warriors recruit Kurt Capewell has received a warm welcome at his new NRL club - in more ways than one.

"It's been beautiful here," said Capewell, after another sun-soaked training at the team's spiritual Penrose headquarters.  

"30 degrees almost every day," he added, generously rounding up a degree or two.

"Living over in New Zealand has never been a deterrent to [joining] the Warriors in my eyes. It's a beautiful country.  

Kurt Capewell at Warriors pre-season training.
Kurt Capewell at Warriors pre-season training. Photo credit: Photosport

"I'm stoked with the move so far... just not really looking forward to the winter."

The club's diehard fans have also ensured the transition has been seamless for the Australian, who's already endured countless random 'Up the Wahs' outbursts on the streets, while his teammates have also welcomed him open arms - and a few friendly jibes.

"They've been awesome," he said of his new squadmates.

"They've got a few larrikins in there - Dylan Walker is definitely not shy of a word.

"It's been great. They've been really good, on the field and off the field as well.  

"The club's got a massive following at the moment... shout out to all the fans that I've seen in the street, and have come up and say 'g'day'. They're very welcoming out here.

"I'm looking forward to round one, and getting a chance to play in front of them here and seeing the stadium packed out."

The forward signed a three-year deal in December to join the Warriors, parting ways with a Brisbane Broncos club he led to the last year's NRL Grand Final, where they were ultimately beaten by Penrith Panthers in one of the most dramatic matches ever. 

The former Queensland State of Origin representative was one of the primary off-season targets for coach Andrew Webster, who was familiar with Capewell, 30, from the years they spent together at Penrith.

He worked alongside then assistant coach Webster at the Panthers, under Ivan Cleary, during their run to the 2021 NRL Premiership.

Webster's meticulous approach during the early stages of pre-season training has stood out for Capewell, who is already relishing being back alongside his former coach.

"The detail around everything," he replied, when asked what had caught his eye at Mt Smart so far. "Webby is very specific in a lot of the drills he does, right down to the minor details with footwork and everything.  

"It's been a bit different to what I'm used to, but it's great to get back into that sort of stuff. I see the squad really improving every day, so it's been a good start with pre-season."

Webster says Capewell has hit the ground running and is already making a strong impression on the squad.

"The way he's fit in with the group is outstanding," said Webster.

"He's learning our systems and he's building combinations. His leadership is more by the way he does things at the moment rather than speeches.

"He's a good leader. But like any leader – you want to earn your stripes with the group and once he does that, I'm sure he'll impose himself that way.

"He's played in big games and he's been a winner for a long period of time... I think he can stand up under pressure. 

"He's been fantastic."

Capewell was part of the Broncos team that ended the Warriors' deep playoff run at the preliminary final stage earlier this year, when they're remarkable transformation from wooden spooners to legitimate title contenders.  

Well aware of what a winning environment feels like from his championship days in western Sydney, Capewell says he's already getting similar vibes in Auckland.

Capewell in action for Queensland.
Capewell in action for Queensland. Photo credit: Getty Images

"I haven't been here too long to comment too much on it, but from what I can say, they're heading in the right direction, leaving no boxes unticked.

"The amount of work ethic from not just the coaching staff, but all the boys and from the playing group as well, has been tremendous. It's been very impressive to see."

Built very much in the mould of former Warriors enforcer Kevin Campion, Capewell is a high motor, high workrate second-rower, whose ability to play the full 80 minutes in one of rugby league's most demanding positions makes him a hugely valuable asset. 

He believes his skillset suits the current squad perfectly and, even at this early stage, is convinced his move to Aotearoa was the perfect move.

With the likes of former Dally M medallist Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and Chanel Harris-Tavita back in the fray, Capewell is confident the Auckland-based side can go even further next season.

"After seeing where [the Warriors] were headed last year and what they could do in one year, I wanted to be part of what they can do this year as well.

"I couldn't find a better club... a club that's definitely on the up. Knowing Webby and having worked under him before made it a very easy switch for me

"Now it's time to get down to business."

Capewell will have his first chance to don the Warriors jersey in their pre-season opener against Wests Tigers at Christchurch on February 18.