NRL 2022: Kurt Capewell making huge impact for Broncos after move from Penrith

After the worst defensive year in Broncos history, huge changes were needed — and one of the club’s boom recruits is demanding a huge lift from his new teammates.

Broncos coach Kevin Walters has vowed to fix the club’s defensive horror shows and says marquee recruit Kurt Capewell will provide the backbone that leads Brisbane back to the finals.

Capewell will take the first steps in his Broncos career on Saturday night when the Queensland Origin utility captains Brisbane in their derby trial hitout against the Titans at Cbus Super Stadium.

While South Sydney champion Adam Reynolds has stolen the headlines as Brisbane’s No. 1 off-season recruit, the acquisition of premiership-winner Capewell is equally critical in the plan to haul the Broncos out of the NRL cellar.

Walters knows that restoring the Broncos as a finals force must start with sorting out their appalling defence.

The Broncos leaked a whopping 695 points last season — the worst defensive record in the club’s 33-year history — and history shows that teams possessing a poor constitution without the football do not play finals football.

Enter Capewell.

The 28-year-old was at the heartbeat of the defensive resolve that propelled the Panthers to last year’s premiership and Broncos players have already detected the one-percent attitude Capewell pledged to bring to Red Hill.

Kurt Capewell has been earmarked as the man to fix the Broncos’ defensive woes.
Kurt Capewell has been earmarked as the man to fix the Broncos’ defensive woes.

If Broncos players are guilty of poor standards or defensive misreads at training, Capewell and fellow veteran recruit Ryan James have called them out.

No shortcuts. No laziness in defence. They are the qualities Capewell learned during his stint at premiership clubs Cronulla and Penrith and Walters says the back-rower will be Brisbane’s Minister for Defence this season.

“Kurt Capewell has already been huge in that area (defence) for us in pre-season,” Walters said.

“It’s just the standards he brings and his experience ... his presence in defence has been infectious for the group.

“We have to improve our defence, absolutely, and we’ve done a lot of work in pre-season on it.

“We improved at the back end of last season, but our defence has to be better again for us to play finals.

“If you look at the NRL grand final (last year), Souths had a lot of opportunities to score, but Penrith through pure determination and will to win, they stopped the try or stopped the line break.

“Kurt was a big part of Penrith’s success. He knows how to handle pressure week in, week out ... he will certainly help us get better in that defensive space.”

Kevin Walters wants to draw on Kurt Capewell’s experience.
Kevin Walters wants to draw on Kurt Capewell’s experience.

Capewell will replace retired skipper Alex Glenn on Brisbane’s left edge this season and is keen to play major minutes against the Titans in his maiden 2022 hitout.

“There has been a lot of hard work in the off-season so I’m looking forward to playing some footy,” he said.

“I got lucky. I had a pretty long holiday and it was extended because of Covid, but we’ve had a very good pre-season, the boys are so fit and strong, we will be ready to do some damage come round one.

“I’m not too sure how long I will play, but I will be pushing to have a bit of a blowout.

“I want to get some good minutes to blow the cobwebs out.”

There is a renewed buzz around the Broncos and Capewell is confident he can help lead a finals revival.

“The one thing I have learnt from Penrith is that the one percenters mean everything,” he said.

“That’s the key to building a premiership club and hopefully I can bring that attitude to the Broncos.

“I am looking forward to the challenge of moving to a new team and establishing myself as a leader at the Broncos and teaching some of the younger boys the stuff I have picked up along the way.

“I will bring the one percenters, stuff like making my tackles and leading the kick chase, and that’s why ‘Kevvie’ (coach Walters) got me here.”

PAYBACK TIME FOR STAGGS AFTER NIGHTMARE INJURY

Kotoni Staggs has warned NRL rivals he is in the best shape of his career and says it’s payback time for the Broncos as the strike weapon looks to bury 18 months of injury hell by leading Brisbane to the finals this season.

Brisbane’s most lethal attacking player will make his much-vaunted comeback from back-to-back knee problems in Saturday night’s trial against the Titans at Cbus Super Stadium.

For Staggs, it will be the first step towards personal redemption, and repaying the faith of the Broncos after a knee reconstruction and medial ligament damage which has restricted him to just four NRL games since September 2020.

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Another premature end to his 2021 campaign has had a silver lining: it enabled Staggs to hit the ground running for the 2022 pre-season and the bulked-up centre is primed to spearhead Brisbane’s finals fightback — starting against the Titans.

“I have prepared my body better this year and it’s time to get back to my best again,” said the 23-year-old Staggs, who has played 51 games for the Broncos since his debut in 2018.

Kotoni Staggs is in great shape for the new season after a long injury lay-off. Picture: Zak Simmonds
Kotoni Staggs is in great shape for the new season after a long injury lay-off. Picture: Zak Simmonds

“I am 94kg at the moment. I’ve put on a couple of kilos of muscle so I’m feeling stronger.

“It will be good to get my legs ticking over again in the trial. Last year didn’t go to plan, I only played four games after being out of the game for nine months with my knee reco, which was pretty tough, so hopefully I get a full season under my belt.

“This year, I think the finals is a definite goal. The previous years that have happened (a wooden-spoon finish in 2020 followed by a 14th placing last season), it’s not good enough for the playing group or the club.

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“The Broncos are a massive club and they should always be competing for the top four and challenging for grand finals and premierships. We want to be playing finals this year and I want to make sure I’m a key part of getting us there.”

Staggs’ injury battle wasn’t just personal. The tackle-busting dynamo admits he felt he was failing his teammates, unable to help during a time when the Broncos were languishing in the premiership cellar.

“I really feel I let my mates down,” he said. “The injuries wore me down and it got to a point where I wasn’t enjoying footy and I didn’t want to be around the place.

Kotoni Staggs is primed for a big year and wants to take the Broncos back to the finals. Picture: Tertius Pickard
Kotoni Staggs is primed for a big year and wants to take the Broncos back to the finals. Picture: Tertius Pickard

“You watch the games and when the guys are going through a tough time with results, I hated just sitting there not being able to contribute.

“I didn’t want to go to some home games because I felt so bad letting everyone down, but this is my chance to repay the club this season.”

Staggs says the off-season purchase of premiership big guns Adam Reynolds and Kurt Capewell has injected a fresh energy and it has extended to Brisbane’s corporate arm.

The Broncos have brokered a two-year deal with leading outdoor-leisure retailer BCF, who will feature on the playing shorts of Brisbane’s NRL and NRLW teams for the 2022 and 2023 seasons.

“We are delighted to be welcoming BCF to the Broncos family – they are Australia’s biggest outdoor retailer and a proud Queensland business,” Broncos boss Dave Donaghy said.

“The great outdoors is at the heart of the Queensland lifestyle, and BCF is a brand that we all know and love which is why we are so proud to be partnering with them going forward.”

Nui injury opens door for flyers to push fullback claims

The battle for the Broncos’ No. 1 jumper has been blown wide open with rookie fullback Tesi Niu set to miss Brisbane’s premiership opener against South Sydney next month.

Niu was set to be named Brisbane’s fullback for Saturday night’s trial against the Titans at Cbus Super Stadium, but was scratched from the derby hitout after failing to finish training at Red Hill on Wednesday.

The 20-year-old limped off and scans on Thursday confirmed a grade-two hamstring tear. He faces four to six weeks on the sidelines and will need a swift recovery to be cleared for Brisbane’s round-one clash against Souths at Suncorp Stadium on Friday, March 11.

Tesi Niu could be sidelined for four to six weeks with a hamstring injury. Picture: Bradley Kanaris/Getty
Tesi Niu could be sidelined for four to six weeks with a hamstring injury. Picture: Bradley Kanaris/Getty

“Tesi picked up a hamstring injury at training (on Wednesday) and the scan today showed a Grade 2 strain,” said Broncos performance chief David Ballard. “That type of injury requires a 4-6 week rehab which Tesi will start on in coming days.”

Walters has given Niu first crack at the No. 1 jumper and was hoping to unleash him for the first time this season at Robina, but his withdrawal has opened the door for David Mead to start at fullback against his former Titans club.

Other contenders for the fullback position for the premiership opener include Selwyn Cobbo, Herbie Farnworth and Dolphins-bound Jamayne Isaako.

The injury caps a difficult period for Niu, who was rocked by the tragic death of his father last month.

Former Tongan Test star Niu played 16 games last season and showed promise at the back end of the year, scoring eight tries, including two doubles to lay down a marker as Brisbane’s No. 1 custodian for 2022.

Walters told News Corp a fortnight ago he was keen to give Niu a chance to cement himself at fullback and be a long-term presence in Brisbane’s playmaking spine.

David Mead could wear the No. 1 jersey for Brisbane in the trial against the Titans. Picture: Getty Images
David Mead could wear the No. 1 jersey for Brisbane in the trial against the Titans. Picture: Getty Images

“Tesi is another guy who has a huge future,” the Broncos coach said.

“He has only had 10 or 12 games as a fullback and we saw at the back end of last year some of his capabilities at fullback.

“He finished off there in a strong way so he is the leading candidate for the fullback jumper.

“He made the position his own at the end of last year. But we are starting from scratch again, so knowing Tesi’s competitive nature, he will be keen to stay there at fullback.

“He will only get better. He has a lot of skill. Some of the tries he scored last year were excellent and it’s exciting from my point of view as coach to have another season with these young guys.

“We have to keep improving guys like Tesi.”

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Broncos scare as star recruit ‘parked’ for trial

Broncos coach Kevin Walters has dismissed fears over Adam Reynolds’ long-term health after his $2.4 million halfback recruit was ruled out of Saturday’s trial against the Titans at Cbus Super Stadium.

The Broncos will roll out their big guns for their second trial of the season with key quartet Kotoni Staggs, Pat Carrigan, Payne Haas and Kurt Capewell to launch their 2022 campaigns in the M1 derby at Robina.

But Brisbane’s revenge mission in 2022 received a scare when Reynolds — their big-money off-season purchase — was put on ice for the Titans showdown after failing to train at Red Hill on Wednesday.

Walters was hoping to debut Reynolds in Broncos colours against the Titans. Instead, the 31-year-old was a spectator at training, standing alongside the coaching staff wearing joggers as his Brisbane teammates ramped up preparations for the Gold Coast derby.

Reynolds endured speculation last season he was on a modified training program at former club Souths to manage a niggling shoulder problem, but Walters insists his skipper has not suffered a fresh injury.

Adam Reynolds has been ruled out of Saturday’s trial against the Titans. Picture: Steve Pohlner
Adam Reynolds has been ruled out of Saturday’s trial against the Titans. Picture: Steve Pohlner

“I’ve decided not to play Adam this week,” Walters told News Corp.

“He’s not injured, I just don’t want to risk him at this stage.

“At this stage of his career, Adam has played enough footy.

“It would have been good to give him a go with some of the boys to build combinations, but we’re parking him for the moment. There’s bigger games ahead for Adam.”

After 231 games in the NRL nerve centre, Reynolds’ pint-sized frame has taken a battering at times and he has some wear and tear, including to his achilles which is carefully monitored by Broncos medicos.

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But Reynolds has trained consistently since arriving at the Broncos and Walters is adamant the champion No. 7 will be on deck for Brisbane’s season opener against the Rabbitohs on March 11.

“There’s no issue with Reyno’s body. His shoulder is fine,” Walters said. “At this stage, the plan is to play him next week against the Cowboys (in Brisbane’s final trial in Mackay).

“I’ll probably give him 40 minutes in that game.

“There are no concerns for him for round one, if he comes through the trial next week he will be there against the Bunnies.”

Fellow off-season recruit Ryan James, who will face his former Titans club this week, believes a fit Reynolds will propel Brisbane back into top-eight contention.

Kevin Walters insists Adam Reynolds will be ready to go for round one against Souths. Picture: Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images
Kevin Walters insists Adam Reynolds will be ready to go for round one against Souths. Picture: Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images

“I think we can definitely make the finals,” he said.

“The addition of ‘Reyno’ will make a difference. The Broncos lacked a bit of guidance last year in that seven jersey. No disrespect to the sevens who were here, but Adam has played in two grand finals and won a grand final, so he knows what it takes to win big games.

“I wouldn’t want anyone else playing halfback for us.”

Walters said the Titans trial will be a crucial hitout for Staggs and Carrigan, who endured injury-ravaged seasons last year, with the latter making his comeback from a knee reconstruction.

“I’m looking forward to seeing Kotoni and Patty play,” he said.

“Patty has trained well after his ACL injury and it was a frustrating year for Kotoni last season, but he’s had a good pre-season and he is a real strike weapon for us.

“We’ll be mixing and matching this week, I’ll be giving as many players as possible a go and the next week we will narrow things down in our final trial.”

Adam Reynolds is expected to play in the Broncos’ final trial against the Cowboys next week. Picture: Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images
Adam Reynolds is expected to play in the Broncos’ final trial against the Cowboys next week. Picture: Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images

Benji’s big tick for bolter to partner Reynolds

NRL playmaking legend Benji Marshall has delivered a stirring endorsement of Billy Walters, calling for the Broncos livewire to partner marquee halfback recruit Adam Reynolds for Brisbane’s premiership opener against South Sydney.

Walters is locked in a five-way battle for the Broncos’ No. 6 jumper and will get a golden chance to press his claims in Brisbane’s second trial of the pre-season against the Titans this Saturday night at Cbus Super Stadium.

Brisbane’s trial team will be named Wednesday and coach Kevin Walters is keen to road test his son in the halves after Billy’s slick performance in the Broncos’ 52-4 trial trouncing of Wynnum Manly last Saturday.

Walters operated at dummy half against the Seagulls, but the former Storm and Wests Tigers utility says five-eighth is his preference — pitting him against rival pivots Tyson Gamble, Albert Kelly, Ezra Mam and Te Maire Martin.

If anyone knows what it takes to succeed at the scrumbase, it is Marshall.

Billy Walters is in a five-way battle for the Broncos’ No. 6 jumper for round 1. Picture: Zak Simmonds
Billy Walters is in a five-way battle for the Broncos’ No. 6 jumper for round 1. Picture: Zak Simmonds

The recently-retired Marshall played 346 NRL games, including a one-season cameo at the Broncos in 2017. The premiership pivot played alongside Reynolds at Souths last season and believes Walters would be a handy scrumbase foil as the veteran halfback looks to spearhead a Broncos finals fightback.

“I’d give Billy Walters a chance (at five-eighth),” said Marshall, who worked with Walters at the Tigers in 2020 before linking with Reynolds at Souths last year.

“I loved playing with Billy. We had a really good combination at the Tigers, as a teammate I really enjoyed my time with Billy. He is a good buy for the Broncos. He is versatile, he can play hooker too, but I’d like to see how he goes at six.”

Marshall, who was a headline act at Fox League’s NRL season launch in Sydney on Tuesday, said Walters possessed a show-and-go as lethal as Cowboys champion Johnathan Thurston.

“Billy has a great tackle technique and when he attacks, I would have to say he has the best dummy I have ever seen,” Marshall said.

“He has this knack of going to the line and when he throws the dummy, it’s so unexpected.

“I don’t know how the other Broncos playmakers have gone in pre-season but Billy is a very solid player.

“Coming back from the knee reconstruction will take some time for Billy to recover from, but he would be a good halves partner for Adam Reynolds.”

Benji Marshall has given Billy Walters (right) his tick of approval. Picture: Zak Simmonds
Benji Marshall has given Billy Walters (right) his tick of approval. Picture: Zak Simmonds

The Broncos coach said Walters, Gamble and Kelly will get time against the Titans this week to audition for the No. 6 jumper.

“I’m keen to see a few of our halves this week against the Titans,” he said.

“I like Billy’s attitude. He is a footy person and his training in pre-season has been outstanding. His body is the best it’s been for 18 months. He had knee problems at the Tigers but he is fully fit now and that’s what a good pre-season can do for players.

“If Benji has a wrap on Billy, it’s a good guy to have in your corner.

“Benji was a great player and a good judge, but a lot will come down to the next two trials and who will put their hand up to start in round one.”

Originally published as NRL 2022: Kurt Capewell making huge impact for Broncos after move from Penrith

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