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Australia’s first ever city-based esports competition, the Gfinity Elite Series, wrapped up recently, with a handful of participants walking away with an Australian record $225,000 worth of prize money.
Competing in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Rocket League and Street Fighter V, a mix of pre-existing professional esports athletes and ordinary gamers who’d proved themselves in online competition earlier battled it out to claim the title of Elite Series champions.
With six teams – the Brisbane Deceptors, Melbourne Avant, Melbourne Order, Perth Ground Zero, Sydney Chiefs, Sydney Roar – all competing for glory, it was a wild, passion-fuelled seven weeks of competition that resulted in a team created eight months ago collecting a massive pile of cash.
Here’s how it all went down.
Expectations before this tournament kicked off were that the two newly-created teams in Brisbane and the Roar would struggle badly against their more established opponents.
The first two matches proved almost all of the critics wrong.
First up, it was the Deceptors taking it to Melbourne Order – albeit with Order fielding a reserve line-up – taking a 10-5 lead at the halftime break. While Order came back to win it 16-11, it was an almighty struggle.
If the crowds’ heads weren’t spinning already, they certainly were in the next match after the Sydney Roar came from nowhere to hand the Sydney Chiefs an almighty 16-2 hiding in what was the most lopsided result of any match in the entire competition.
As shocking as the first week was, some logic and reason started to emerge as the competition wore on.
The Chiefs got their act together, winning their next three matches to put themselves in the title conversation, while Melbourne Order went 2-1 with their reserves before putting an unfortunate Perth team through the wringer when their top team – ranked 37th globally – returned.
Brisbane fell away from the rest of the pack, failing to win any of their first four games, leaving Melbourne Avant in a scrap with the Roar and Ground Zero for the final playoffs spot.
The final week of the regular season was shaping up to be a thrilling one, with Avant and the Roar facing off for a playoff spot, Order and the Chiefs playing for top spot and the Deceptors trying to win their first match and play spoiler to Ground Zero.
Avant overcame a hot start to knock off the Roar and seemingly eliminate from the playoffs, only for Brisbane to come out of nowhere and cause a huge upset against Perth to let the Roar back in. The season then finished off Order edging out the Chiefs in an overtime thriller for the ages.
Heading into the playoffs, it was looking to be Order’s title to lose – and they delivered on their promise.
They brushed aside the gallant Sydney Roar 16-6 and 16-8 in a best-of-three series, while in the other semifinal it was the Sydney Chiefs needing overtime in both of their matches to see off an incredibly tenacious Melbourne Avant in an all-time classic.
A huge crowd packed the Hoyts Gfinity Esports Arena in Moore Park for the final, where they witnessed simply world class CS:GO from Order as they swept the Chiefs 3-0 and claimed the lion’s share of the $80,000 cash prize on offer.
There was a fair bit of intrigue heading into the Rocket League season, with many of the Elite Series clubs importing rosters from traditional rivals to set up a spicy five weeks of competition.
Melbourne Order – using DarkSided’s roster – started their season off in fine form, with comfortable wins over Brisbane, Avant and the Roar, before losing their first game of the season to a team they’d knocked out of Oceanic qualifiers earlier this year – Perth Ground Zero (using Legacy’s players).
That 3-1 win was a much-needed shot in the arm for Perth, who’d lost their first game of the season a week earlier after strong early victories over Brisbane and the Roar.
The Deceptors’ Rocket League team were, unfortunately, the only team in the Elite Series not to win a game all season, while – similarly to CS:GO – it was Melbourne Avant and Sydney Roar left to battle it out for the last playoff spot.
Like CS:GO, it was Avant taking the points and the playoff spot and, unfortunately for the Roar, there were no massive upsets elsewhere to save them.
But the Rocket League season had one favourite and one favourite only – the Sydney Chiefs.
Despite their top team missing the first fortnight of the season (participating in the world championships in London, mind you) a favourable early draw made them the easy frontrunners to go out and win the title with ease.
Their reserves overcame a spirited Roar challenge in the first week and comfortably took care of Brisbane in the second, giving the superstars a good base to build on.
The Chiefs steamrolled Perth and Avant, before holding on for a thrilling 3-2 win over Order in the last game of the season to lock in top spot.
Needing only to get past an Avant team that went 2-3 in the regular season, the Chiefs – who hadn’t lost an Oceanic game in 18 months – had their eyes on a juicy rematch with one of their traditional rivals in Perth or Order.
Torsos (Daniel Parsons) said before the match that Avant were simply “not very good” – and those words came back to bite him in a big way.
Against all odds, Avant pulled off arguably the biggest upset of the season in any sport, winning the best-of-seven 4-2 to advance to the finals.
Unfortunately, the fairytale ended there. Order, who’d gotten revenge on Ground Zero in the semis, proved too strong in the decider, winning 4-1 to claim the club’s second Elite Series championship in as many days.
With a huge number of draftees making up the Street Fighter ranks, we were promised an even competition – and that’s just what we got.
It was Melbourne Avant who stole the show for much of the season, not just for the fact they want 4-0 against all odds, but because every single one of their games went to a decisive seventh round.
They looked odds on to go undefeated in the regular season when they came up against the winless Sydney Roar in the final week but, in typical Elite Series fashion, it was the Roar coming out on top with a 4-3 win.
Nipping at their heels for much of the season were the usual suspects in the Sydney Chiefs and Melbourne Order. The Chiefs looked unstoppable in the first fortnight, before faltering against Perth and Avant, whereas the Order had won three of four heading into the final week and looked very strong.
So, of course, when the two sides met in Week 5 it was the Chiefs who emerged victorious.
Even lowly Brisbane had a chance of sneaking into the finals despite losing their first three matches, only missing out because they needed seven rounds to beat Perth – who took their spot.
The fourth-placed Ground Zero got the playoffs off to a stunning start with an upset win over first-placed Avant, while Order were able to reverse their Week 5 loss to the Chiefs with a semifinal win.
The grand final between Order and Perth was billed as the closest of the three, but the Melbourne side were able to flex their muscle and claim a resounding 4-1 win.
That gave Order their third championship of the weekend – a pretty neat result for an esports club that was only born last December.
Gfinity runs a separate competition, called the Challenger Series, where ordinary gamers from around Australia compete in online tournaments for the chance to be drafted by Elite Series teams.
It’s free to enter and, after seeing plenty of fresh faces take it right up to the pros, the fans will be keen to see more of the same when Season 2 kicks off in November.
Note: Gfinity Australia is a joint venture with HT&E Events. The Roar is published by Conversant Media, which is owned by HT&E.