The Chiefs were the small-town, poor relation of Kiwi Super Rugby teams.
Even off the main stage, Australian CSGO was on show for the world to see during IEM Sydney.
The Chiefs – the hometown heroes as they were so often nicknamed at the event – came in fifth, narrowly missing the semi-finals. On the road to this however, they felled some fierce competition in North and Renegades. For some of the players, these teams were filled with players they themselves looked up to before going pro, says Alistair “Alistair” Thompson.
“You look up to these people – they’re the people you watched before you even played,” he explained. “It’s the best feeling, getting a kill on them – you’ve just done that against one of the best players in the world. It’s a great feeling.”
It was this positivity that carried the team along so far through the group stage. Knocking out Renegades, an Australian-filled roster run in Detroit, being the most notable achievement for the team.
“We came into the tournament as underdogs, which we saw as a positive, and also helped us do as well as we did,” noted Alistair. “It pushed us.”
Despite lacking the international renown and access to teams that Renegades have, the similarities were clear to other teams.
“I don’t think there’s much difference actually, but Renegades have a bit more of an NA style [than the Chiefs]”, suggested Andreas ‘Xpy9x’ Højsleth, a support player for Astralis.
“Because they have roots here in Australia both teams have a similar playstyle, and Chiefs really surprised, they should be proud of what they’ve accomplished here.”
The Chiefs are the latest in the Australian CSGO success stories, and maybe one day they’ll see the level of attention that Renegades have achieved. Having players tearing up international competitions with our flag next to their names can be quite the boost for a burgeoning scene.
Karlo ‘USTILO’ Pivac, a player for Renegades, spoke highly of the rise of these new teams.
“It’s getting better and better everytime we come back,” he said, in regards to the growth of CSGO at home in Australia. “There always seems to be a new team coming out of nowhere, and Chiefs is that new team. Tainted minds was before that, but there’s always something better.”
Alistair was equally confident in his own team’s growth, proudly stating that he feels within the next year the tea can “reach that level consistently” against international teams.
“To be honest, after playing all these teams I believe that Australians are on par with the European teams, or at least not far off,” he said. “It’s just practising against them, scrimming against them, it’s phenomenally important.”
Even with all the good that these tournaments and teams are doing for the scene, one big problem remains. Both Alistar and Xpy9x noticed the same issue, echoing the importance of something Australia lacks – good practice and access to global teams.
“Practising here is really difficult – you don’t find super practice because there isn’t really good international teams to compete with like in Europe and NA,” noted Xyp9x.
Even domestically, there’s things that can be fixed so that practice and scrims are more beneficial in the scene.
“People tend to practice to win here, and that’s not actually that useful for either team. Teams really need to work to get more out of each other,” closed Alistair.
But for now, IEM has had a huge impact on the way esports is seen in Australia by fans, sponsors and external viewers. With competitions of this scale gaining traction, people can see that there’s actually careers and work to be found in esports.
“If this is a success like it has been, they’ll continue to come here and people will see exactly what esports is,” said USTILO. “Australia has been lacking lately, events like this will always help boost the scene.”
There’s no perfect way to ensure Australians get to keep competing in international class tournaments for CSGO that don’t happen on our soil.
“I don’t know if they [smaller regions] should be directly invited or if we should have, say, 32 teams, so they have a chance to prove themselves at the tournaments,” said Xyp9x. “It’s great that we have newcomers, and we need that sort of structure in CS. We need those grassroots to make the sport better.”
The words of Alistair seem as fitting as any to sum up the influence of IEM.
“I think having this event in Australia is so important. If IEM wasn’t in Sydney I don’t think we’d have got a chance to play in it,” he noted.
“We’re on the map now. People will see that we knocked out one of the best teams in the world and give us a chance now, and that’s what we wanted to do. And we did it.”