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It’s not often a reigning triple-champion enters the next season’s playoffs as dark horses – but that’s exactly the position Melbourne Order find themselves in as the second season of the Gfinity Elite Series’ playoffs kick off.
They’ve toughed out some very up-and-down seasons across all three esports competitions but, now armed with a clean slate, could be poised to sweep the rug out from under their opposition three times in a row.
Let’s dive in to all three of their teams and rate their chances of repeating as Elite Series champions this playoff series.
Across both seasons, it’s been abundantly clear that Order’s top-string lineup is the best in the (Oceanic) business.
The fearsome fivesome of international-calibre players have brushed aside all brought before them since the Elite Series began – the trouble has been getting that lineup on the stage.
Last season, the top team dropped in at the fourth week and swatted the rest of the competition like flies on route to a decisive CS:GO crown.
This season, however, we’ve only seen that top lineup twice, although they’ve netted two wins with a frightening total map score of 32-12 in those appearances.
The backup lineup has performed admirably in the three games they’ve played, with a hard-fought win over the Deceptors and an incredibly tight loss to the Chiefs being mixed in with a now infamous 16-0 demolition at the hands of Ground Zero.
Second-string captain Sonic told the crowd the top team would be unavailable for the playoffs, but rumours are now doing the rounds that they may just be available for the knockout rounds after all.
If Alistair, Emagine and co. do take the stage, the competition will have a new favourite – plain and simple. Perth Ground Zero still look very capable to giving the black and red a run for their money but, in a best of three, you’d have to pick last season’s champs if it comes down to it.
While it would be easy to point at the draftee roster’s 1-2 record and 36-52 map differential and, subsequently, put a line through them – that would actually be unfair.
I think they’re more than good enough to take it to Avant in a semi-final and, once the grand final rolls around, anything can happen.
Likelihood: Toss of a coin
With top lineup: 8/10
It wasn’t quite a Steven Bradbury moment, but Order were certainly lucky to see a heavily-favoured contender stumble in stunning circumstances last season.
After the Sydney Chiefs – a world-calibre side who hadn’t lost in an Oceanic match for 18 months – were sensationally bundled out of the first season’s semi-finals by an unheard of Melbourne Avant roster, the Rocket League crown was suddenly Order’s for the taking.
And take that crown they did.
Fears amongst the fans that they too would underestimate Avant’s plucky youngsters in the big dance were cast aside early, as they dominated their crosstown rivals from start to finish in a comprehensive grand final win.
This season, however, hasn’t been as easy.
The first two matches of their title defence saw them upended by the two teams who missed last season’s finals in a shocking start to the season.
Since then, however, the Order boys have found their groove – winning three straight matches, including a surprise 3-0 touch-up of the aforementioned all-conquering Chiefs.
They’ll definitely enter the playoffs somewhat behind the 8-ball, with a daunting matchup against warm favourites Sydney Roar in the semi-final.
But if they can navigate that prickly assignment, they’ll fancy themselves against the other side of the bracket.
It’d take something special, but Elite Series fans are getting used to seeing just that from this Melbourne team.
If there’s one playoffs series Order fans can kick their feet up and just enjoy – it’s this one.
Order’s top line-up of RoF, TravisStyles and Camzace/Bug finished the second season atop the Gfinity standings and are red hot favourites to take out the title.
They were frighteningly good in the first season of the Elite Series and have picked up right where they left off this time around.
It’s no secret Street Fighter is where the most smack talk occurs at the Elite Series – and Order’s RoF is certainly the epicentre of that phenomenon.
Chiefs’ draftee DaBigChoppa said he was looking forward to putting the Order captain in his place recently, but he may have to wait until next season to do that.
The reigning champions have flown through this season, with a frightening total round score of 16-6 across their four wins. Their only loss was a 4-3 heartbreaker against crosstown rivals – and so far, their kryptonite – Melbourne Avant.
They should cruise past Perth Ground Zero in the semi-final, where they’ll get a crack at either the rival Avant or loudmouth Chiefs in an explosive finale.