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Kurt Capewell joins Warriors immediately in huge twist for Reece Walsh at Broncos

The veteran back-rower has been granted a release to link up with the New Zealand Warriors.

Kurt Capewell and Reece Walsh at the Brisbane Broncos.
Kurt Capewell's move to the Warriors frees up salary cap space for the Broncos to re-sign Reece Walsh. Image: Getty

Kurt Capewell has quit the Brisbane Broncos effective immediately and signed with the New Zealand Warriors on a three-year deal. Capewell had one year remaining on his current Broncos contract and had been linked with an early release from Brisbane so the NRL grand finalists can free up salary cap space to upgrade deals for the likes of Reece Walsh and Ezra Mam.

The back-rower had been told that he wouldn't be re-signed by the Broncos past his current contract, leading him to look for an immediate release. “We’re thrilled to be able to lock in a player of Kurt’s quality and experience immediately,” Warriors general manager Andrew McFadden said on Thursday. “Quite apart from what Kurt will provide as a player, he’ll be immensely valuable with his experience in a mentoring role for the young back rowers we have coming through the club.”

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Broncos coach Kevin Walters paid tribute to Capewell, saying: "Capes has played an important role for us over the past couple of seasons, both on and off the field as we laid down the foundations to turn things around as a club. He is a great bloke and a wonderful servant of our game, and he has made a big impact at our club in a short period of time since joining us in 2021. On behalf of everyone at the Broncos, I'd like to thank Capes for all his efforts at the club and we wish him well.”

Broncos face Reece Walsh and Ezra Mam dilemma

The Broncos have just re-signed youngsters Jordan Riki and Brendan Piakura, meaning it was unlikely Capewell would be retained by Brisbane beyond his current contract. The Broncos are also desperate to keep the likes of Walsh and Mam to secure their future as premiership contenders, and could have released Capewell as a means to free up space to offer the star pair bumper contract upgrades.

Walsh pocketed around $450,000 in 2023, while Mam was on around $250,000, with both player's values skyrocketing after incredible seasons for the grand final runners-up. Tying down the pair seems to be top priority for the Broncos after they handed prop Payne Haas the richest deal in the club's history.

They have also re-signed representative forward Patrick Carrigan but Walsh is undoubtedly the jewel in the crown for Kevin Walters' side. Broncos great Corey Parker recently claimed the Maroons fullback was worth more more than $1 million per season. It remains to be seen how Brisbane could facilitate such a substantial contract upgrade without freeing up cap space by releasing players such as Capewell.

“I think they have to pay Reece Walsh a million bucks and probably more actually,” Parker told The Courier Mail. “If Payne Haas is on $1 million, Walsh has to be on at least $1.1 million. He should be the highest-paid player at the Broncos.” Parker said his marketability on and off the field for the Broncos makes the huge amount worth it for the 21-year-old.

Pictured left to right, Reece Walsh and Broncos teammate Kurt Capewell.
Reece Walsh's contract upgrade is complicated by the future of Broncos teammate Kurt Capewell. Pic: Getty

It's understood if Capewell were to be granted an early release to join the Warriors it would be on a three-year deal for coach Andrew Websters' side. George confirmed that the Warriors interest in the veteran back-rower is for several years and is not dependant on him joining in 2024.

“We’ve (offered) a longer-term option here for him, he’s on the market for 2025 and that’s what we’re looking at,” George added. “If that was to eventuate and him and Brisbane decided that there an option for this year (2024) for us to talk about, we’d be happy to do that. But our interest has been around the longer-term proposition as well.”

Capewell joined the Broncos after winning a premiership with the Panthers in 2012. The talented back-rower - who has also showed his versatility by playing in the centres for Queensland in State of Origin - has played 41 games for the Broncos and was a key part of the side that made the grand final in 2023.

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