For the first time in four splits, the Oceanic Pro League has a new champion. Bombers, who were tipped by many at the start of Split 1 2019 as the title favourites, closed out their dominant season in the Oceanic domestic league with a 3-0 win over Order.
Despite Order gathering momentum heading into the grand final, and with many backing the underdog roster after their record-breaking 9-1 march through the OPL gauntlet, Bombers proved they were a class above on the Rift.
Now the Essendon club has a new objective on the horizon – prove to the rest of the world they’re the strongest Oceanic representatives to ever travel from Down Under to an international event.
It’s a place, and a mantle, that club captain Jake “Rogue” Sharwood admits he wasn’t sure he’d every reach. Now, he says it “still hasn’t sunk in” that he’s an OPL champion, with his name carved into the annals of League of Legends history.
“This is the greatest feeling I’ve ever felt in my life, it’s just amazing” the Bombers support said.
“When I first joined Bombers I was one of the first people to join, and didn’t really know what the team was going to look like. When I got the message about who was joining, I just started cheering and told my friends “I’m going to win OPL”.
“Five or six times a day I keep just telling people “I won OPL” and they cheer for me again. I even changed my background to a picture of the trophy just so every time I open my phone I see it again. I’m just so happy to finally have achieved this.”
Rogue, who played for Sin Gaming and Order before joining the Bombers in 2019, revealed his dream of lifting the OPL trophy first began back in 2015. A young Jake Sharwood, still just learning about the world of League of Legends, watched the Chiefs Esports Club crowned kings of Oceania at Luna Park.
It was in that moment he realised he wanted to become a champion in Australia, and earn the title of the best team in the country.
“I went to that final at Luna Park, and I saw Chiefs lift the trophy, and I was just sixteen and I started to just have a dream that I wanted to win.”
“When I was starting I knew that I had so much potential, and I knew I wasn’t there yet. Last year with Order it felt like the first year where that title was within reach, and it was something that I could achieve.
“Obviously it didn’t work out, and the Bombers gave me that second chance to get to that dream. After last year I was scared I may had missed my chance, and then this year started and we ended up winning nearly every game, and it all worked out in the end with the 3-0.”
Now Rogue admits he’s just looking forward to being involved in a tournament with “six figures on the Twitch stream”.
“Every year I was jealous when other teams got to go overseas and play against all these big names, and cool teams,” he said.
“I’d see the six figures clicking over on Twitch, and I’d think to myself “I want to play Thresh in front of them”, and now I have that possibility – not so much just Thresh, but representing Oceania.”
The Mid-Season Invitational, which begins for the Play-In teams on May 1 at the GG Stadium in Ho Chi Minh City, is now the next big challenge for Rogue, Bombers, and everyone who was involved in the organisation as they headed towards champion status.
Although none of the other teams competing at the Riot Games-hosted event have yet to be confirmed – most will be revealed this weekend – Rogue revealed the possibility he could eventually come up against teams like LCK’s Griffin or the defending LCS champions Team Liquid would be “insane”.
“I think everyone from every single region that’s heading to MSI wants to face Griffin, everyone in Bombers are definitely massive Griffin fans and the fact that we’re heading to the same competition as then is insane,” Rogue said. “If we make it through, I’d also love to face Team Liquid, I’ve been watching them for a long time and it would be cool to face an LCS team.”
Bombers coach Scott “Westonway” Farmer is looking a little closer than a potential record-making qualification to the main group stage however, and believes his team has a chance to make a strong showing in Vietnam.
“We definitely aren’t going to be focusing too much on the LCS teams and things like that, we have a lot of teams in the play-in stage ahead of that,” Westonway said.
“There’s a lot of other wildcard regions that we now have to watch, we need to figure out how they play, what their favourite strategies are, and how we’re going to beat them if we want a chance to face off against those massive teams.”
The Bombers boss also revealed a number of OPL coaches have already approached the champions after their 3-0 victory, offering to help scout potential MSI opponents and prepare the Oceanic representatives for the international tournament.
“As soon as we started preparing, we had a few messages from other coaches and people involved in the OPL that said they wanted to help out with preparations,” he said.
“Aaron [Aaron “ChuChuZ” Bland] was a big one, after Order lost he had no reason to help us and has an offseason now, but he offered to watch all these games and assist us in our practice and training ahead of Vietnam. It’s so cool to see that people want to help us out.
“I honestly haven’t watched a single game from so many of these wildcard regions, but we want to make it out of the play-in stage groups for the first time. We’ll be the underdogs for sure, but with everyone behind us we’ll give it our best shot.”
Despite the underdog status that any Oceanic team has heading into tournaments against international representatives, the Bombers coach believes his roster has a chance to defy those expectations.
“Hopefully we can be the first ones to get out of the group stage at MSI,” Westonway said.
“No one has been able to achieve that before, we’re aiming to do our best and go above expectations. It’s definitely possible for us to go far this year.”
The Bombers now have 19 days to prepare for their international tilt, with their first matches to be played on Wednesday, May 1 AEST.
Keep an eye out for more Mid-Season Invitational coverage from Snowball Esports as the tournament appears on the horizon in coming weeks.