Todd “Todd” Francis has had a rough run at it in Oceanic Rainbow Six the last couple of years. However, heading into Oceanic Nationals 2021, there’s a renewed sense of hope in this Bliss roster. It’s the first bit of stability he’s found since Athletico.
When I first spoke to Todd about what was then Ferox, it was December last year.
The squad had just made it back into Oceanic Nationals after being forced into the relegation tournament. From the outside looking in, Ferox were good on paper, but somehow managed to crumble under pressure.
However, from the inside, Ferox was fortunate to even exist. Throughout numerous points, the roster has been hours away from disbanding. Todd has been there through thick-and-thin as the glue holding everything together. It’s a lot harder than it looks.
Throughout 2020, Ferox were close to finalizing their team for the season, and then in some act of God, everything would flip on its head. It left players like Todd and Beau “Shade” Hobill-Hill dejected as the organisation became somewhat of a revolving door.
“The first season I played with Ferox [Six Masters 2020], I joined less than a week before the start of the season. We never really had super high expectations because you can’t actually prepare to go into a season properly and expect to get good results out of it,” he said.
After that, it got worse for Ferox. Josh “Warden” Wadham, the veteran head of the team, retired. Thomas “Deptra” Larder was also out. Yet again, Ferox were forced to rebuild, and their preparation for OCN was hindered.
It wasn’t helped by the fact that Joshua “Sushi” Campion also wanted out, or that their first-choice replacement Mitchell “Sageon” Sage, who was scrimming with the team for two months, was snapped up by the Knights.
However, they managed to whip together a team with Jordan “Nazgul” Robinson and Anastasios “Odah” Hatzis, all while pleading for Sushi to stay.
“It’s hard enough getting one player in, let alone two,” Todd laughed.
“With how the transfer window works, we could only get two new players in. We kind of ended up having to stick with Sushi in the hope that it would go okay, but it didn’t. Our season was almost a write-off based on that to be honest.”
Ferox didn’t make Oceanic Nationals playoffs with their hastily-put together roster, forcing them into relegations. Sushi was out for good, and they needed an emergency substitute. Who knew that their saviour would come from Japan?
“Two weeks before the relegation playoffs, Sushi just quit. We had to ask about the transfer window again and use a stand-in. It must have taken three weeks to get a response, and they said no you can’t do that.
“Thankfully for Nora-Rengo though, with Merieux having to retire, they had to get a stand-in. That set the precedent for us to do it too. If that didn’t happen, there was a chance we’d be disqualified, and that’d be that. That was a stressful few days.”
With “Repix,” Ferox managed to get back into Oceanic Nationals for 2021. All this storytelling before now is important, because it paints a picture for how relatively normal the off-season has been for Todd this year.
The only roster move the Athletico veteran had was an organisational change to Bliss. The same squad that lined up at relegations three months ago will line up in Oceanic Nationals Stage 1. The normality of it all has instilled hope in Todd that hasn’t existed for some time, and given him a shot of confidence.
“Without the stability I think we might have struggled because it’s been pretty hard to have a consistent scrim schedule. At least having a stable roster means we don’t have to go through a full rebuild phase whilst also struggling to find scrims,” he said.
“Making playoffs is what we are looking to do. Anything other than that would be a big disappointment.”
The basis for that big jump after a couple of disappointing seasons is partly Repix. The young gunner doesn’t have any Pro League experience outside of that relegation tournament, and Todd is looking forward to molding him into a star of the future.
“He’s fit in and just been great. Because he hasn’t played comp at all, he’s a clean slate. We just try to guide him as much as we can. He performed well in the relegation tournaments, but he’s going to improve a lot more because he’s a new player. He’s got a lot of talent.”
The roster has also been able to put in the time, and they’re happy with how far things have come from the Ferox of old to now.
“Almost no matter what roster you have, if you have time and you put the work in, you can build up to that [top] level. If you’ve got guys who can shoot, and you put the time in, you’ll get there. We’re happy with how we play the game strategically. Everyone is on the same page.”
However, while playoffs are the big goal, sticking together and improving together is what matters the most after months of turmoil.
“I don’t think anyone on the team cares that much about outside opinions. We don’t have to prove anything. We just want to keep improving ourselves. We’re not super fussed. If we focus on ourselves, the results will come.”
Oceanic Nationals kicks off on Sunday, March 21. Bliss take on LFO at 9:30pm AEDT.