FEATURE

Chiefs: Living up to their former CS:GO glory

The Chiefs are looking to return to the top of Oceanic CS:GO in 2021 with a host of new signings.

The opportunity for the Chiefs to take trophies and establish domestic dominance is ripe amid the recent roster shuffles throughout the region. Getting back to those winning ways is a priority for an organization as decorated in CS:GO as the Chiefs.

The Chiefs Esports Club are a bedrock organisation in the Australian esports scene, and have consistently had a Counter-Strike team since early 2015. 

Their legacy is irrefutable within the scene, synonymous with the other historically Oceanic CS:GO brands such as Vox Eminor, Renegades, and Team Immunity.

They’re no strangers to signing the top talent in Australia. Many of our region’s most talented individuals have passed through the Chiefs at one point in their career, including Chris “Dexter” Nong (mousesports), Josh “INS” Potter (Renegades), and Alistair “AliStair” Johnston (Renegades).

The Chiefs domestic hay-day: 2017 to 2019

The Chiefs have not accomplished as much internationally as other teams have over the years, but domestically have consistently been around the top. Most notably, their upset win against North at IEM Sydney 2017 signalled the potential in our scene to the global Counter-Strike world. 

This event would produce one of the most iconic images of Tyler “tucks” Reilly, the captain of the squad in a moment of sheer passion. The photo is an embodiment of the heart and soul the organization’s presence within the scene brings.

IEM Sydney 2017 would prove to be the beginning of CS:GO’s incredible growth in the region. Grayhound, ORDER, Avant and more would start to form real domestic title contenders as a new era of Counter-Strike was hailed in.

While their rivals would have the chance to compete internationally, the Chiefs were hamstrung. Captain tucks, as well as young star Matthew “texta” O’Rourke, were VAC-banned. Majors and international events had no value to the Chiefs, because they couldn’t play in them anyways.

What resulted was a team that strived to dominate domestically given their pieces and limitations. They won two seasons of MDL, came second in three, and also racked up two ANZ Champs titles in Seasons 6 and 7.

To compliment these achievements, appearances at IEM Sydney 2017-2019 helped define this era of the Chiefs core.

Rebuilding in 2020

At the beginning of 2020, the team saw a major overhaul with the signing of ex-Genuine Gaming and the departure of their old roster. This would be the start of Tom “Apocdud” Henry and Hugh “HUGHMUNGUS” Anderson’s journey with the Chiefs. Their roster would also sign Yaman “Yam” Ergenekon in the following month as coach.

2020 would not go down as a year filled with trophies and big results for the Chiefs, alongside the start of the “Online Era” brought on by COVID-19 pandemic. Apocdud and Hughmungus would soon find themselves on one of the most turbulent rosters in terms of incoming and outgoing players for 2020.

In May, the team saw Chris “Jinxx” Moseley, Jordan “SkulL” Newland and Daryl “Mayker” May leave the team, making way for Charlie “Zeph” Dodd who remains on the roster today as well as Jay “Soju_j” Jeong and Declan “Vexite” Portelli, who at the time couldn’t compete in all events with the squad due to age restrictions.

“Last year was honestly super frustrating and the beginning of this year as well because it basically felt like since we originally put this roster together in January 2020, we’ve never been able to get a foothold because there has never been a consistent roster,” Apocdud stated.

“First we had Soju having to step down with the original roster, then we had Vexite and having to wait for him to turn 16. There was Hugh going over to Avant and getting ofnu and then ofnu going to Avant and us getting Hugh back,” he added.

And the roster was never able to solidify itself outside of its ability to take maps off Order, Avant and Renegades with the occasional series every now and again on top of that.

“But then Vexite has left and we’ve had to pick up another person. It’s been kind of like a revolving door at the moment and for reasons outside our control.”

The panic shuffle of 2021

With Vexite being added to Order, following a chain of roster moves in Australia caused by Dexter’s addition to Mousesports, Chiefs were left with just three players at the start of the 2021 season.

The team recently completed their line-up with the addition of two players, Maclane “gump” Cross and Timothy “val” Youn. Gump had previously played in the Dreamhack Masters Winter OCE event with the Chiefs as a part of a trial with the squad.

“Basically, they said that they will trial me and if they like me then we can continue. After we played those games against Renegades and Avant and we were also scrimming together that week they decided to continue playing with me and they liked what they saw,” Gump said.

Having trialled with the team while Vexite was still playing, his departure and the addition of Val gave gump perspective on what the rest of 2020 would have been like for the lineup, given their perpetual roster moves.

“We had practiced two maps to a pretty decent extent before Declan switched and we were able to do that in 2-3 weeks. We’ve already made that up again with Val, he and Declan play pretty similar roles so it was an easy transition.”

“It’s been mentioned that they were quite annoyed with the rotating fifth member and how they couldn’t really have a stable roster to practice with and as a result they weren’t really happy with what they had and what they achieved last year,”  he added.

In addition to all these moves, the team’s coach “Yam” is also no longer with the squad.

“Yam is not part of the team anymore. He moved overseas at the end of last year, so it was a bit more difficult for him to coach anyway. He’s no longer part of the roster really,” Apocdud said.

Aiming for the stars once again

Moving forward, this iteration of the Chiefs is now in a similar spot to many of the other teams in the region who have seen large roster moves and roles within teams shifting massively.

“Order has gotten weaker because they don’t have a sick double AWP anymore, Alistair was their best player and he brought so much to that team as well. Avant (now Dire Wolves) have gotten weaker since they lost ofnu, we’ve gotten weaker just losing Vexite.”

“Not that all these players are massive downgrades or anything but every team has to start again because they’ve all had a shuffle so things are weaker in AU right now, and it all stems from this move with Dexter,” Apocdud explained.

“I think this is the year where there’s a massive opportunity for anyone of the top 4 to solidify their spot, because Renegades is weaker without Dexter.”

However, without Vexite, and a more inexperienced roster, that doesn’t mean Apodcud has scratched his 2021 aspiration. In fact, the unproven talent in this roster could prove to be the Chiefs’ trump card.

“My goal this year is the same as last year — to solidify top 2 or 1. It’s kind of a lofty goal but it’s what I want to aim towards and that’s my main motivation at the moment; to just be better than the other teams,” he added

“With our roster, it always comes back to experience, and that’s something the other 3 teams have in spades over us.”

In 2020, Chiefs saw this as a hurdle and nothing has changed moving into 2021.

To val and gump, the current Chiefs core will be some of the most experienced players they have had the chance to play with themselves.

“I’ve got three other players with me who have been playing at the top in AU for a while and they’re helping me a lot with certain small things I had not noticed or thought of and that experience is really helpful for me at the moment.”

“In the future I want to travel overseas to play. In terms of individual performance, I want to be able to do my role and be one of the best in Australia in my role and be known for that which will take a lot of hard work but I think I’m capable,” gump stated.

For now, this Chiefs roster will have to prove itself domestically and take advantage of what appears to be the most level playing field since this core’s inception.

“The signs right now are good, we’re improving, I have a new approach towards calling and towards practice which is good and I’m hopeful that this year will be really solid for us,” Apocdud concluded.

PhotographyThe Chiefs
Ash Whyte
Ash 'Shhlee' Whyte is all about Counter-Strike and its stories. While he did look at playing League of Legends at some point, he soon opted to specailise in CS after being told Shyvana top was apparently not 'viable' and that Bronze was not a 'good' rank.