Contenders Australia is around the corner, and a lot has happened since IEM Sydney just six weeks ago.
Australia’s champions, Order, represented the region on the international stage at the Pacific Showdown. Legacy and Athletico fought their way back through Trials to requalify for Contenders this season. New rosters have been forged, old units recommissioned, and some teams just stayed out of the shuffle entirely.
With that in mind, here’s a quick rundown of what happened in the off-season, to whet your appetite for great Overwatch action starting on June 16.
A chance on the world stage
With the introduction of the Pacific and Atlantic Showdowns, Contenders has finally gone international. After claiming the season one title and breaking the finals curse, Order wore the heart of Australia on their shoulder in Shanghai. Like what Blank did two years earlier, Order fought tooth-and-nail against some of Asia’s best Overwatch talent.
While they didn’t win, losing 0-3 to both Korea’s O2 Blast and China’s The One Winner, Order gained valuable experience that had been sorely lacking in the contenders ecosystem. They got to scrim-and play against-the best Contenders has to show. They got stage experience, something other Australian teams envy, and the best teams thrive on.
Australia can only improve as a region when we get the chance to go global. We are isolated from the rest of the world, having to cop 140ms to even think about playing on US West or Korea. It’s even harder to organise scrims on that ping. While we won’t have a spot at this year’s Gauntlet, the Contenders boys will get another chance to represent Australia on the Overwatch World Cup stage later this year, and that’s always something to be excited about.
Drawing a Blank
In one of the biggest organisational moves in Oceanic esports history, Blank Esports were acquired by NRL team Vodafone Warriors in May.
We're proud to at long last unveil our partnership with renowned sports club, the @NZWarriors, now representing their new esports division – @WarriorsESC! #WarriorsEsports #PlayLikeAWarrior pic.twitter.com/ceqWrxweRR— Warriors Esports (@WarriorsESC) June 7, 2019
The move means it’s the end of an era, with Blank rebranding to Warriors Esports for Contenders Season 2 2019 and beyond. A team which started from humble beginnings in 2017 exploded onto the scene after moving to Asia, where they dominated Pacific competitions like Overwatch Pacific Championship and APAC Premier.
While their return home hasn’t been as successful, they are still one of the most iconic names to grace Oceanic esports as a whole. Not many teams have been as successful as Blank, even if they didn’t win a lot internationally. Blank kickstarted the careers of Ashley “Trill” Powell, Jordan “Gunba” Graham, and Jason “ieatuup” Ho, by giving them a platform to make a name for themselves.
However, being picked up by the Warriors is no small thing. It’s a massive step for the scene as a whole, as more traditional sports teams try and align themselves with esports teams from multiple games. While the Blank brand might be disappearing, it’s heart will live on in Warriors.
The Dropbear exodus
The Sydney Drop Bears lost their first Contenders title in four seasons, and with it, a chance to play internationally as a team for the first time. This season has sparked changes in the Drop Bear camp, the biggest since season two last year.
DPS Felix “ckm” Murray has retired from competitive Overwatch, as has main support Lachlan “Bertlog” Main. Huseyin “Hus” Sahin has moved to Warriors, while main tank Teetawat “Teetawat” Teerayosyotin joined Team Envy just before IEM Sydney. With four gaping holes in the roster, the Drop Bears had to change things up.
Main tank Song “Dreamer” Sang-lok joins the Drop Bears from Pacific team Xavier Esports, while Sim “Felinz” Jae-min arrives from Korea to replace Hus. Winter “Winter” Thomas and Ashley “Fluro” Thompson also made the jump, leaving the Melbourne Mavericks to join SDB.
This new team has a lot of potential behind it, but whether they can live up to the three-peat glory days is up in the air. The Drop Bears will be out to prove that season one 2019 was a once-off, and everyone else will be going out of their way to prove them wrong.
New season, new time, same teams
Both Legacy and Athletico requalified for Contenders through Trials, meaning that we will be seeing the same eight season one teams in season two.
WE DID IT!— Athletico #StayHome 🏡 (@AthleticoES) May 21, 2019
We have made it out of trials & will be competing in the upcoming season of @owpathtopro Contenders! 🏆
⚔️ @DfieldOCE, @goobs_2002, @Pasowo3, @ow_design, @WuvoT& @JJJJ_ow#ATHWIN | #ATHOW | #ATH1337 pic.twitter.com/JzXOtSMQch
Legacy opted to keep things the same in Trials, only making one change to their roster. Jesse “mowe” Carter has moved to the bench, with Luca “lab” Barichello joining the team for season two. While they fell to Athletico 2-1 in the opening match, they secured wins against all of the Open Division teams to stay alive.
Athletico, however, ditched their entire season one roster, and made way for a new roster full of Open Division talent and veterans to guide them. Daniel “Dfield” Banfield and Declan “goobs” O’Reilly were the only players to stay with Athletico. They picked up Paso, Design, JJJJ, and Zetzal from Kraken Black, while Wuvo returned from a short hiatus to play for Athletico. It worked, with Athletico securing a spot after beating everyone except New Era.
However, while the teams aren’t changing, the time slot certainly is. Every game of Contenders Australia will be played live this season, starting at 2pm AEST on Sundays and 7pm AEST on Mondays. It’s only a small thing, but the new time allows a lot more people to engage with Contenders Australia than ever before.
Contenders Australia returns this Sunday 16 June at 2pm AEST with a grand final rematch between Order and the Sydney Drop Bears. You can catch the action live on the Contenders Australia Twitch channel.