NRL: NZ Warriors recruit Kurt Capewell settling into unfamiliar role as New Zealand's most popular Aussie

So far, there have been two measures of how successfully Australian recruit Kurt Capewell has immersed himself in NZ Warriors culture - one shows promise, but the other is still a major  workon.

Capewell has migrated across the Tasman from a Brisbane Broncos team that so nearly captured the NRL crown last year, but chose to promote talent from within, rather than retain a proven veteran.

Previously, he was an integral contributor to the Penrith Panthers 2021 Grand Final triumph and before that, he made his first-grade debut for the champion Cronulla Sharks outfit of 2016.

Kurt Capewell in pre-season action for the Warriors.
Kurt Capewell in pre-season action for the Warriors. Photo credit: Photosport

A State of Origin regular for Queensland, Capewell's onfield credentials are unquestioned, but perhaps his biggest challenges since arriving in Auckland have come beyond the sidelines.

"It's pretty easy," he said. "A lot of footballers are the same, funnily enough, but moving over here has been a little different, with a lot more boys from different cultures.

"It's good to embrace that and try be a part of it. Picking up the Māori language is a bit harder for me, but I'm getting there."

Capewell, 30, offers a sample of his learning: "Kia ora, whānau."

That kind of sensitivity will win hearts among a fanbase that embraces cultural diversity - but there's another aspect of his education that badly needs work, which may only come once his new side notch up their first win of the season.

The team song that roared around Go Media Stadium Mt Smart by the end of last season's triumphant return to the playoffs still eludes the newcomer.

"That's pretty bad," teased captain Tohu Harris. "When we won the [pre-season] game against the Dolphins last week, I saw a bit of panic in his eyes, because he thought we were about to sing, but he got let off there."

Capewell countered: "You've got to win first... let's focus on winning, Tohu."

That much he has absolutely correct.

After plenty of seasons when victory seemed almost impossible to attain, the Warriors - under rookie coach Andrew Webster - completely turned their fortunes around from their worst-ever record in 2022 to a preliminary final appearance in 2023.

The danger is expecting this team to simply carry on where they left off last year, but Capewell has seen enough to believe that fear will prove unfounded.   

"The culture here is outstanding, and Webby's done a great job of getting the whole team together and pointing everyone in one direction," he confirmed.

"To be honest, I've just been trying to find my way into their system, trying to make sure what I do is correct and get better every day. If I can do that, I'm sure the young guys will follow in those footsteps.

"It's not a destination, it's a continuous strive to be better and better every day. It's something that was already in place here with Webby and when I showed up, I was taken by surprise how well these young guys show up to work every day.

Kurt Capewell celebrates a try for Brisbane Broncos.
Kurt Capewell celebrates a try for Brisbane Broncos. Photo credit: Getty Images

"They're hungry and want to get better."

History would suggest that hasn't always been the case, but with his record of success, Capewell's addition adds another wrinkle to the professionalism demanded of this team.

That attitude will surely make him a favourite among Mt Smart faithful and Capewell is eager to take on the mantle of New Zealand's most popular Aussie.

"Chur, I can't wait," he chuckled. "I got a little taste of it at the trial game and can't wait to see this place sold out, with our fans hanging over the fence.

"I've seen plenty of them on the street and get a few 'up the Wahs'. 'Cape-wah' seems to be a bit of a thing at the moment, so it's been good

"Playing in opposite teams, having to travel over here, it was always cold and windy, quite wet, so not the best trip."

A win over his old Sharks team on Friday would go a long way to answering the one remaining question mark over his Warriors transition.

"I'm looking forward to singing the song - after a win," he winked. "It's bad luck to sing it before the win."

Join Newshub at 8pm Friday for live updates of the Warriors v Sharks NRL clash