From Ipswich to Cronulla, Kurt's star is on the rise

HUNGRY SHARK: Kurt Capewell in action for the Cronulla Sharks against the Raiders.
HUNGRY SHARK: Kurt Capewell in action for the Cronulla Sharks against the Raiders. Contributed

THE ROAD from Charleville to Cronulla, via Ipswich, is a long one with plenty of traffic, twists and turns.

But it is a road that Sharks back-rower Kurt Capewell has travelled with class.

He's been in the overtaking lane for most of the journey, nudging gradually ahead of all those reaching for the stars on the highway to rugby league success.

The 23-year-old will line up off the bench for the Cronulla Sharks in tonight's NRL preliminary final against the Cowboys at Allianz Stadium in the biggest game of the former Ipswich Jets star's life.

His old Ipswich coach Shane Walker, reckons Capewell is made of the right stuff on and off the field.

The Walkers have known the Capewell family, and Kurt's parents Darrel and Lyn, for over 30 years.

The cards weren't exactly stacked in Capewell's favour learning his craft as a junior in Charleville out west.

While a wonderful grounding for a youth in terms of the sense of community and bush ways, the tyranny of distance was something Kurt lived with and coped with.

"A lot of people underestimate how difficult it is for a bush kid to come in and make it in footy,” Walker says.

"They don't get to play a lot of footy and learn their craft through multiple games like city kids.

"The guys out west in places like Charleville will tell you that it can take eight to 10 hours of driving just to get to a game sometimes.

"A short trip down the road to Cunnamulla is 200km away.

"There are a lot of sacrifices made by the people out there to get a game.”

When Capewell left the bush for the big smoke it wasn't long before he made his mark on the Intrust Super Cup.

"In Kurt's case he came down to go to school at Ipswich Grammar and we got him down to training before he debuted as a 17-year-old for the Jets,” Walker says.

"Brendon Marshall played inside him at centre and gave him a lot of great experience.

"He scored two tries in that debut on the wing and the Broncos later signed him.

"In his first year out of school the Broncos were keen but we convinced Darrel and Lyn that he should have a year at the Jets training with men and learning his craft, which he did.

"In hindsight his time at the Broncos was spent out of position at fullback and wing, and then he went down to the Roosters and was once again out of position for a while.

"Then he came back to us with a great attitude, we turned him into a second-rower and the rest is history."

Capewell showed his temperament off the field as a young country bloke who could roll with the punches and thrive no matter what the circumstances.

His initial years in Ipswich are a case in point, where the 2011 floods played havoc with the best laid plans of many residents.

"He was due to live with Ben (Walker) but the flood hit and Ben and Kylie and the kids ended up in temporary accommodation for six or nine months,” Shane says.

"And Kurt, being a country kid and the unflappable character that he is, said 'that's ok'.

"There was a caravan down at Ben's place that hadn't been washed away so he took up lodging in there with one power point and he'd swap his radio and toaster over when needed.

"He stayed there quite a while.

"That was probably a legacy of the way he was brought up.

"Darrel and Lyn are active members of the polocrosse up there (in Charleville) and it wouldn't have been unusual for him to go away and sleep in a caravan or roll a swag out and sleep under the stars.

"That might seem unusual for city fellas but for country people there is nothing better than rolling out a swag and sleeping under the Southern Cross. It is nothing new.

"Kurt is an avid fisherman as well and when he lived with me and Katie for 18 months while he was at the Broncos it was nothing for him to hitch his boat and go fishing and camping for the weekend.”

Kurt Capewell in action for the Ipswich Jets against Townsville in the 2015 Intrust Super Cup grand final.
Kurt Capewell in action for the Ipswich Jets against Townsville in the 2015 Intrust Super Cup grand final. Rob Williams

Capewell was one of the best players on the field in the Sharks semi-final win over the Raiders in Canberra, just his third NRL game.

"Often times a guy plays their third game and you hope they can fit in and hope they aren't exposed,” Walker says.

"But Kurt didn't just show he belonged. He showed that he can star. As a back-rower he's got unbelievable footwork and this big, loping sidestep where he can draw in three men.

"So he can go at the man in front of me, put a right foot sidestep on the bloke on his immediate left and all of a sudden he's three men away from where he originally started.

"So he can engage a lot of defenders just with one bit of footwork.

"Kurt can also leap for high balls, the legacy of being a winger.

"He can also throw a 20m spiral, has great speed and despite his wiry physique he is very strong.

"So he's the complete back-rower.”

It's a tough gig getting a game at the Sharks in 2016.

Capewell bided his time in the NSW Cup for Newtown where he impressed Sharks Shane Flanagan, and now the Cronulla mentor has full faith.

"It's a testament to how well he is going that they have seen fit to keep him in the side for the semi-finals, and hopefully a grand final,” Walker says.

Topics:  cronulla sharks, ipswich jets, kurt capewell, nrl, shane walker

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