In a five-week season, you’d think the contenders and pretenders would be separated very quickly. That hasn’t been the case during the second Gfinity Elite Series season.
The first week gave us plenty more questions than it did answers, with Melbourne Order and Perth Ground Zero utterly destroying two of last season’s semi-finalists in the Roar and the Chiefs, while Brisbane and Avant played out a tight tussle that left us with no clue as to who the real improvers were.
Fans were therefore looking to this weekend to provide some stability and logic, but the news that many of the top sides were playing draftee rosters this weekend just muddied the waters some more.
All up, we had ten recently drafted players take to the stage on Saturday, with Avant and Order in particular putting up inexperienced line-ups.
It was those Avant draftees who’d get the first test of the afternoon too, coming up against a Chiefs team reeling from their 16-2 demolition at the hands of Perth a week prior.
While Chiefs started season one off with a shock loss by the same score, they were able to recover with a strong win in week two and eventually reach the grand final.
Any hopes that history would repeat itself were dashed emphatically, however, with Avant’s second-string squad running rings around the Chiefs as they raced out to a 10-1 lead.
An ace from breaker in the pistol round got Avant off to the best possible start, while it was a masterclass in retaking bomb sites as the CTs from there that helped them build the commanding lead.
Only stone cold errors from the visitors were what left the Chiefs back into the game, as they limped to a 12-3 deficit at the break.
The second half proved to be a much more competitive affair – five rounds to the Chiefs meant the loss only ended up being 16-8 – although that could probably be chalked down to the fact Avant made no secret of their thoughts the match was over.
The Melburnians raised eyebrows before the match by electing to wear ironically drab sunglasses while playing and, at the half, were literally lounging around in their chairs without a care in the world.
It’s extremely rare for an esports club with the calibre of the Chiefs to be so openly disrespected on Australian soil but, with so many roster changes since last season, that appears to be the reality for them right now.
While there is still definitely some good talent to come back, Sydney need that top tier talent back sooner than possible – otherwise this Gfinity Elite Series season will have slipped away before they know it.
The surprises didn’t stop there, however. While Ground Zero’s draftee-laden team always looked ripe for the picking, few expected them to be seriously challenged by a Roar team that just looked hapless against Order a week prior.
But some handy line-up changes proved to be just what the doctor ordered for Sydney’s second team, as they jumpstarted their season with an upset 16-9 victory.
They looked to be on their way to a second-straight defeat early-on, falling behind 7-3 on the CT side, but they closed out the second half super strongly to take a surprise 8-7 lead at the break.
From there, the underdogs barely broke a sweat as they rolled on to claim the 16-9 win.
In many sports, a battle between two teams is often underscored by an epic tussle between one player from each side – and this match had just that.
In the green corner, it was new kid on the block Skullhunter who was proving unstoppable in the early going, with his comeback in a one-on-three at one point simply sublime.
But for the home team, it was their talismanic veteran topguN who wound back the clock once more to get his side back into the contest.
Perth won’t be too concerned with this result given their top team is clearly going places but, for the Roar, this was just the kind of victory to needed.
They proved to themselves they can fight back from adversity, while also showing they still had that lethal tendency to go on absurd winning streaks like in season one.
The Elite Series saved the best match of the day for last, however, and once again it was a surprise result.
Fans were very pleased with the teams agreeing to play on the world-famous Dust II map – and the fast start was on as six players died in the first 25 seconds of the first round.
Brisbane, with a stronger line-up compared to last season, fancied their chances of getting their first win of the season against an understrength Order side.
They got their dream start in the form of a 6-1 lead, but this match had plenty more swings and roundabouts in store.
Order found their groove in a big way, winning eight in a row to take the 9-6 half-time lead, before running that streak to a whopping 13 straight rounds.
Down 14-6, it looked unassailable for the Deceptors, but they found a gear we’ve arguably never seen from them before, winning six in a row of their own, before fighting off match point three times to force extra rounds.
In the end, the upset wasn’t to be as Order won 22-20, but there’s no doubt we got a glimpse of what Brisbane really are capable of.
They’re desperately unlucky to be sitting 0-2 – and will almost certainly find themselves finished with a third straight loss – but if they can string some wins together they’ll be a side nobody’s particularly keen to face at the pointy end of the year.