The Knights are in need of redemption following a rather disappointing Stage 3 across both OCN and APAC South. Coach Jed “Pikniq” Dixon believes the squad has finally uncovered their issues and won’t be making the same mistakes twice.
After the highs of APAC South Stage 2, the Knights very quickly snapped back to reality in Stage 3. Going from Mexico Major qualification to dead-last in the overseas league was a big hit to the team’s confidence, as well as their reputation.
It hasn’t helped that basically all year long the Knights have played second fiddle to the Chiefs domestically. While they managed to win out in the OCN Stage 3 regular season, come the grand final, the Chiefs walked away as back-to-back-to-back champions.
That’s not to say the Knights’ entire year has been a total disappointment. In fact, coach Pikniq was quick to highlight the reason why this roster has grown from a top four threat to being one of the best teams in Australia in just 12 months after a promising end to 2020.
“The main thing was we were all really hard on each other. Obviously as a team we’ve been together for more than a year, and even though we’re close mates we were hard on each other when we needed to be,” he told Snowball.
“We had high standards, and that really helped us; alongside strategic changes, understanding the meta and improving our own game. You can’t do that if you don’t have the standards and you’re not working together.”
However, the downturn after Stage 3 put the writing on the wall for some. The Knights were done, the team was washed, and there were plenty of changes that needed to be made.
Internally, they didn’t feel like they were strategically outclassed — at least early on — but as the losses compounded, the pressure piled on, and it ended up a total trainwreck.
“With hindsight, we can look at it now and maybe we didn’t put in enough work, but in my opinion we made the wrong changes too quickly without realizing it. We first took a loss against Invictus on Playday 2, and we didn’t think we were behind strategically so we didn’t want to make major changes there — we looked at chemistry and communication.
“As the losses stacked up though, we made a lot more changes and maybe we made too many changes and became lost. It was hard for us to determine what the actual issues were.
“We know after Stage 3 we have a lot to work on and there’s a lot of rebuilding to do. We have to look at what needs to be fixed, and what we were doing right at the time.”
However, despite all the self-criticism and feeling like they’re on the back foot, the Knights are still their confident selves. They are the team that can be best summed up as being more than the sum of their parts. Their incredible teamwork and chemistry without a single standout (although Jsh and Sageon have both had blistering years) has made them a huge threat.
OCN Season Finals are a great opportunity to prove they have identified their Stage 3 problems, fixed them, and get on the right track ahead of another big prize — Six Invitational 2022 qualification.
“Coming up to SI quals, OCN Finals are a good opportunity for us to switch on and get back into the game,” Pikniq said.
“There’s been a bit of a break since Stage 3 for all teams, and I think OCN Finals, as well as being an opportunity to cement ourselves as a top Australian team, it’s an opportunity for us to find out if the changes we’ve been making after Stage 3 are the right direction for SI quals.”
They do come up against Bliss first in the OCN Season Finals bracket, a team that has pushed them to the edge across the year domestically.
“After Mexico, I don’t feel like any of us were demotivated. If anything, we worked really hard after finding out we couldn’t go. We just wanted to have a banger Stage 3 and unfortunately it didn’t go that way.”
However, the Knights still have the APAC South edge — and that international experience is invaluable in these matchups.
“Based on us playing in APAC South, that’s given us experience and it’s pushed us harder. We have to cater for a wide variety of teams; the APAC South teams, the OCN teams, the South Asian teams, so we’ve had a lot of issues and moments where we’ve had to change between teams and in the game. That experience is what gives us the edge over just the OCN teams.”
The OCN Season Finals is more than just a title for Knights though. Out of all the teams, they potentially have the most to prove.
While winning is always a plus, Pikniq wants to put on a solid display to silence the doubters after Stage 3, and show the Knights are here to stay in 2022 and beyond.
“Winning OCN Finals just shows us that Stage 3 wasn’t the start of our downfall. It shows it’s a blip on the radar and we can bounce back.”
Knights will take on Bliss to kick off their OCN 2021 Season Finals campaign on Saturday, December 11, at 6pm AEDT. You can watch the action live on the Rainbow Six ANZ Twitch channel.