And just like that, the Oceanic Pro League is back this weekend. For some, the break may have passed in a flash. For others, the 61 days since Bombers lifted the trophy have felt like years.
This week there’s already a number of juicy matchups that we – or at the very least, Emma “ammeplays” van der Brug, Bernadette “Nadette” Wong, and Harry “hispanicatd” Taylor – can cast eyes over ahead of the first weekend of OPL 2019 Split 2.
Notably, the Dire Wolves have recruited heavily in the offseason. This gives the rivalry between themselves and the Chiefs Esports Club legs once more, after the Chiefs knocked them across the Rift three times last season. Also on Friday afternoon, we see the grand final rematch between Bombers and Order, two months after the Essendon club defeated their Melbourne opponents 3-0 to lift the Oceanic crown.
The main thing ahead of the new split, however, will be that its a clean slate for every team coming into the competition. Whether they’re a side that finished first with a 19-2 record, or last with just a single win, that’s all forgotten. There’s a new chance to claim silverware. More importantly, Summer holds an even tastier target – qualification to the World Championship.
Emma’s Feature Match of the Week: Dire Wolves vs Chiefs Esports Club
Closing out the opening weekend of games is the rivalry matchup between the Dire Wolves and the Chiefs. This matchup will be interesting because of the offseason changes for the Wolfpack, who brought in four new players to bolster their 1-21 roster from Spring. With the uncertainty of the strength of this new roster, it’s definitely going to be a game to watch as they head up against the formidable Chiefs outfit.
The Dire Wolves are looking to claw their way back into their former number one spot after a last-place finish in the previous split. They’ve added two import players to their roster in the form of Oh “Raise” Ji-hwan, and Eun “Totoro” Jong-serop. They will play jungle and support respectively.
The Wolfpack has also added a new Oceanic mid laner, Lo “Siuman” Pak Man, and Robert “Katsurii” Gouv joins as the side’s new bot laner. On the other side of the Rift, the Chiefs roster has remained the same for Summer, and is as strong as last split. This will play in their favour.
The current Chiefs roster performed consistently last split, finishing with an impressive 18-3 record. Playing to their ability to get through the laning phase without giving up any advantages, and then turning that into mid-game wins with strong map presence and teamfighting, it’s a tough opponent for the new-look Dire Wolves roster to face in their first game in the OPL. I believe the experience of the Chiefs will play to their strengths, especially as the Dire Wolves look to find their feet in the early part of the second split.
Nadette’s Feature Match of the Week: Bombers vs Order
We’re treated to a special match-up right off the back in the first week of the OPL – the grand final rematch between the winners of the gauntlet, and the grand final victors in Order, and the Bombers. The Bombers ended their split in first place after dropping just two games, while Order surprised the league with their miracle run through the gauntlet to finish second overall.
Even with the major changes to the new Bombers roster, the team still looks to be the stronger of the two on paper. If the new players in the Essendon squad are able to adapt to the previous roster’s form, the matchup will surely be in their favour.
In the past, Order have failed to prove themselves against the other Melburnian team. Last split Order fell to them three times in the regular season, and then three more times in the final. It made it even more heartbreaking for Order, then, because of how strong their form looked coming into the OPL decider.
The extremely dominant performance from the Bombers last split is impossible to ignore, and if their title-winning form is maintained the team will continue to achieve the same level of success against Order this split.
Harry’s Feature Match of the Week: Gravitas vs Avant Gaming
With the new split comes new opportunities, which both Avant Gaming and Gravitas will want to firmly grasp as they open the split against each other on Friday evening. Both esports clubs saw themselves end in the middle of the table last split, before both falling to Order miracle run. Gravitas was the first victim in the OPL’s Super Week fixtures before Avant was run over by the eventual runners-up in the second day of the postseason gauntlet.
Each team has also see coaching changes coming into the second split of the year. Avant has also had a change in the jungle, as the dual-combo of Ryan “Swathe” Gibbons and Lachlan “Sybol” Civil were released in favour of import rookie Park “Miru” Mi-reu. It will be hard to tell, then, if there will be any changed playstyles because of the coaching changes.
With these swaps for both teams, it will be hard to predict who will be favoured in this opening week matchup. Ultimately, the untimely suspension of Avant’s bot lane Ryan “Aladoric” Gregory Richardson and Vincent “Gunkrab” Lin, they will be underpowered in the opening week, giving Gravitas the opportunity to start their Summer Split off on the right foot.