Grayhound, Rivalry extend partnership ahead of ESL Pro League group stage

The partnership will see two titanic OCE CS:GO brands expand further than ever before.

As part of their commitment to supporting Oceanic Counter-Strike at all levels, esports bookmaker Rivalry has extended its partnership with Grayhound Gaming ahead of the squad’s appearance at ESL Pro League this Thursday.

The two partnered in September 2022 following the relaunch of the Grayhound name and the squad’s departure from the defunct Order organisation.

The renewed partnership will see the two brands generate content and host a variety of events both online and in-person for fans and viewers.

The announcement comes as the ‘Hounds prepare for their opening ESL Pro League Season 17 group stage series against Team Vitality.

“Our partnership with Grayhound is kicking off alongside one of the most prominent Counter-Strike leagues globally,” said Rivalry Australia Marketing Director Cathy Stapleton.

“This is not only a great opportunity to position our brand in front of a key audience, but to create meaningful content for Grayhound fans during tentpole competitions.”

Alongside Grayhound, Rivalry have extended their support of grassroots Counter-Strike into 2023, assisting in bringing events of all levels to life.

Notably, their backing of Daniel “mavrick” Lang and BrisVegas has seen the event’s expansion accelerated, with Rivalry assisting in over four iterations of the tournament in 2022 alone.

“The Grayhound brand has and always will be about having the time of our lives in a dream industry and sharing that journey with all of the supporters and fans; a vision which Rivalry entirely gets behind and already delivers.”

William “MisterGrayhound” Gray, Grayhound Gaming Managing Director

“Outside of the tremendous benefit in working with such a great group of people, this partnership with Rivalry just makes sense for everyone across the board,” said Grayhound Gaming Managing Director William Gray.

“Rivalry has supported Grayhound greatly since the re-launch last year, and we’re proud to continue working with them as Grayhound.Rivalry.”

aliStair, Grayhound prepare for EPL test after disappointing 2023 opening

It’s always difficult kicking off the season with an event as grand as IEM Katowice — especially so for a squad based in Oceania.

Compounded with an off-season that saw the squad depart their team house after five years, as well as the departure of long-time coach David “Kingfisher” Kingsford — and expectations weren’t high for the ‘Hounds.

“Katowice was a blast-from-the-past event for us,” said Alistair “aliStair” Johnston, who celebrated three years with the GH core at the Polish event.

“We had to pretty much go into that event without any bootcamp and proper practice.”

On top of the travel and the limited practice against European opposition, Grayhound just wrapped up their qualification for the BLAST Major APAC RMR — and as such, while IEM Katowice is a key event, the focus remained on qualifying for Mongolia.

“We played the RMR pretty close to that event and the boot camp we had in motion fell through so we just pretty much had to show up and shoot heads which is always going to be difficult, especially against a CIS team.”

Team Spirit proved too strong on Nuke in their best-of-one opener, meaning a date with Brazilian squad MIBR in elimination.

Captain Joshua “INS” Potter dominated the server on Inferno but was without a second to assist him as Grayhound capitulated at the death.

Leading 13-11 after a 7-2 CT side start, the ‘Hounds conceded five straight rounds including four bomb plants to concede their map pick.

“It’s hard to think back to what exactly was happening and why but it definitely shouldn’t have went to a third map after we felt them out on Inferno,” reminisces aliStair.

“It felt like we handed them that map on a silver platter, so many silly mistakes individually and as a team including communication being off.”

GH would have to level the series on Anubis, where on debut they were humbled in overtime by Rooster — who join them this week in Malta for ESL Pro League.

The map itself is four months into it’s competitive pool stint, and aliStair is impressed with the layout.

“I think [Anubis] is a pretty solid map,” said aliStair.

“The fundamentals and layout actually make more sense than maps that have been the pool for quite a while now.

“There’s still some bugs and stuff that need fixing but overall I’ve been enjoying it the more we play it.”

In just their second official on the map and facing elimination to MIBR at 9-14 down, it would take something special from GH to keep themselves alive.

It wouldn’t be the first time they’ve made a huge comeback either, with their Vertigo effort against TYLOO at the PGL Antwerp Major APAC RMR one such example.

But once again, the ‘Hounds found a way.

“Staying calm is a huge factor. We weren’t really rocked by the scoreline,” said aliStair.

“You just have to take it a round at a time and focus on actually playing rather than looking at the score, we were able to piece good executes together and trade out well.

“Deccy’s [Vexite’s] clutch also was a big help in a crucial moment,” he laughs.

Declan “Vexite” Portelli’s one-versus-three clutch at 14-14 ultimately capped off a remarkable comeback, with former Renegades coach Aleksandar “kassad” Trifunovic cheering in the background.

In the comms, it was aliStair popping off just as much as Vexite — something we’re used to seeing from the team’s sniper.

Following the team’s sole win at the IEM Rio Major — also a massive upset — aliStair coined the term “f–k your Pick’Ems” in an outburst for the ages.

It’s in stark contrast to the rest of the squad, who are seen as much quieter individuals when competing, but for aliStair, it’s the moment that captures him.

I just like to get hype and get involved, honestly. I think me screaming doesn’t affect the scorelines too much. For me, it’s part of the enjoyment in a competitive environment.

Alistair “aliStair” Johnston

In the end, the ‘Hounds were consigned with a long flight home after a battering on Vertigo, with MIBR taking the decider 16-2.

The devolution of Oceania has become clearer and clearer as time has gone on to aliStair.

The GH squad were only scrimming their fellow EPL attendees in the OCE lead-up to the Maltese tournament, with aliStair commenting on how the scene has sacrificed developing their own styles in order to focus on defeating just the top team.

“It’s the same old thing, OCE is quite difficult in terms of practice.

“We’re scrimming Rooster over most teams as they’re the best practice. It feels like most teams are playing and practicing to beat us rather than evolve and play proper Counter-Strike like Encore.”

“I’m really keen to see some fresh faces in Rooster getting the spotlight at an international event and even play them off of home soil at a LAN.”

For EPL, GH arrived a little earlier in order to get some much needed practice in against European opposition.

But not as early as their Oceanic counterparts at Rooster, who for their first international appearance have spent the better part of a month in the region preparing for Pro League.

Rooster will open their account against FaZe Clan, who welcome back Håvard “rain” Nygaard from paternity leave, while the ‘Hounds take on Herbert “ZywOo” Mathieu’s Vitality, utilising Audric “JACKZ” Jug as a stand-in.

It’s substitutes aplenty in Group C, with NiP also needing the services of Kristian “k0nfig” Wienecke, who comes in for Hampus “hampus” Poser as he takes leave.

Between rust and emergency replacements, the opportunity will be there for GH — but aliStair knows their opponents will be just as threatening despite the late changes.

“[There are] a lot of teams with stand-ins in our group which can be seen as easier competition, but that also means these teams have nothing to lose and play with zero fear, which is always a scary factor.

“We’re all just keen to just play some proper CS again.”

“Proper” CS returns to screens at Group C of ESL Pro League Season 17 this Thursday, kicking off at 2am AEDT with Rooster’s international debut against FaZe.

Grayhound take to the server at 5:30am AEDT against French squad Vitality.

Nicholas Taifalos

Nicholas "Taffy" Taifalos got his start publishing the escapades of some of Australia's pioneers in Counter-Strike and Dota overseas. Now, he turns his eye to events closer to home, from grassroots projects to the height of Oceanic competition and everything in-between. He still hopes for the day Dota makes a glorious return to the pinnacle of OCE esports.

PhotographyESL; HLTV
Nicholas Taifalos
Nicholas Taifalos
Nicholas "Taffy" Taifalos got his start publishing the escapades of some of Australia's pioneers in Counter-Strike and Dota overseas. Now, he turns his eye to events closer to home, from grassroots projects to the height of Oceanic competition and everything in-between. He still hopes for the day Dota makes a glorious return to the pinnacle of OCE esports.



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