Despite the best efforts of mix team “Hello Kitten uWu ^_^”, it will be Grayhound and Rooster making their way to Malta next month for Season 17 of the ESL Pro League.
With the EPL Conference format switching away to regional qualifiers, both GH and Rooster were forced to re-qualify for an international opportunity after finishing as finalists at ESL ANZ Champs last season. Both awaited the winner of the OCE open qualifier — likely Vertex or Encore.
But between supposed check-in issues and multiple upsets, it was an unlikely challenger that emerged to face the ANZ Champs finalists in Hello Kitten.
A mix team consisting of ex-Vertex star James “Roflko” Lytras and BrisVegas regulars Hugh “HUGHMUNGUS” Anderson & Jeremy “Motion” Lloyd, Hello Kitten edged out Ollie “DickStacy” Tierney’s Grinny Bankers (19-17) and Gods Work (19-17) to meet Vertex in the open qualifier final.
Shockingly, it was Hello Kitten who came out the other side following a 2-1 (16-14, 3-16, 16-9) win over the Wolfpack, with the squad joining GH and Rooster in the Conference.
With HUGHMUNGUS out of action for the Wednesday night match against Rooster, the services of James “chief” Jago were utilised — but Rooster were a cut above Hello Kitten, winning 2-0 behind a brilliant 47-kill performance from Tyson “asap” Paterson.
Rooster then surprised OCE top dog Grayhound with an Anubis pick — the first time the map had been picked professionally in the region — downing the Major attendees 19-17 in one of the most entertaining matches in recent history.
The fireworks kept coming on Inferno and Nuke, but in both cases it was the ‘Hounds biting back with force, taking Inferno 16-3, then closing out a Rooster comeback on Nuke 19-15, securing the first OCE spot at EPL.
Rooster would have to defeat Hello Kitten in a rematch to make their international debut — a fully armed and operational Hello Kitten this time, with HUGHMUNGUS back in action.
And straight away, Hello Kitten threatened a series boil-over after an overtime victory on Mirage, thanks in part to prodigy Timothy “Valhalla” Youn’s performance in overtime.
Rooster wrapped up Overpass with relative ease for map two, forcing Nuke — a map that Rooster struggled to put Hello Kitten away on without HUGH on Wednesday.
It wasn’t looking great for the Chooks at the half, ahead just 8-7 after a blistering T side performance from Patrick “Falcon” Desousa.
Hello Kitten kept the ball rolling with a pistol and conversion to lead but a huge 1v4 from asap, then a 1v3 from ADK, flipped the script on its head — and Rooster weren’t going to look back from there.
Rooster’s 2-1 (17-19, 16-9, 16-10) win over Hello Kitten to wrap the EPL OCE Conference finally secures the squad their maiden appearance overseas.
To many OCE pundits it was an inevitability that this Rooster squad would make it internationally, but the squad were delayed of any opportunities following ESIC bans to nettik and ADK, as well as asap’s 12 month ESL ban in 2020.
Fully reformed in 2022, Rooster made an immediate impact, finished second at ESL ANZ Champs behind Grayhound.
Season 17 of ESL Pro League begins February 22.