Blink and you might have missed the headlines – In between a flurry of international esports headlines such as roster announcements and all-stars, you may have missed that the Essendon Football Club had invested into Abyss Esports with the branding expecting to be changed along with a high performance environment in Tullamarine. The Essendon Football club is now the second AFL club to invest in esports.
I personally found this to be huge news for the region, not only has another club followed in the footsteps of the Adelaide Football Club, they’ve had the courage to adapt their own style.
The key difference between the two clubs is that Adelaide had decided to keep the Legacy brand but to also continue have the LoL team be run from Sydney. Essendon have picked up the name “Bombers” and have the team train at Tullamarine.
I was fortunate enough to be able to ask a few questions to Abyss’ General Manager, Nathan Matthews about how and why, along with what this means for his organisation.
Why sell Abyss – was this something you were actively looking to do or was it right place right time for the dons?
The sale of the Abyss actually took place just before Split 2 in 2017. I wasn’t actively looking to sell at the time but after a lot of talks with ESE Esports, we finally reached an arrangement that convinced me to sell. It was very tough giving up something that I have put a lot of time and effort into but it was the right decision and I know that the ownership group at ESE Esports and Essendon will be able to grow the club into something much larger than I would have been able to accomplish on my own. That was the exact reason I decided to sell, the new owners have a lot more business, marketing and commercial experience than me and and if I want my dreams of being apart of a top tier organisations to become true, I need the help that the new ownership provides.
Are you an essendon fan? (Be honest!)
Haha I am a born and bred Hawthorn supporter, so this has actually been a very conflicting period of time for me. For those that follow AFL, they will know that traditionally Hawthorn and Essendon have had a very long rivalry, I actually had to buy some extra Hawthorn merchandise over the last few days to please my family members. I have been involved with multiple sporting clubs over the years at all levels and the biggest thing you realise is that it’s the people that make the club. Clubs are much bigger than anyone person or player and I know the people behind the Essendon Football Club are very driven and committed to their club, so I have absolutely no issues working with them in Esports.
What does this investment mean for the OPL/Abyss?
This investment does bring the end of the Abyss franchise as all our teams will be rebranded in early 2018. All of our members and fans will learn about our new brand in the coming weeks. Partnering with an AFL club, especially one as big as Essendon was a complete no-brainer. They have resources and pre-existing infrastructure that we can tap into to help grow our Esports teams. All of our players are extremely excited about this partnership since it also gives our players and management new career opportunities once they move on from their playing career. There are a heap of projects that we are working on at the moment which you will learn about in the coming weeks/months and everyone will quickly realise why we made the decision to partner with Essendon
Scott (Scott “Windowsmonkey” Farmer – Abyss’ new Head Coach) is back with the organisation, what’s prompted this?
Scott has always played a very important role in the growth of the Abyss organisation but unfortunately he was unable to continue with the team in 2017 due to the changes in format and more specifically the move into a gaming house. Without going into his personal life too much, Scott lives in New Zealand but is not a citizen. He has been in the process of becoming a citizen for some time but extended trips outside of New Zealand can put this in jeopardy. Thankfully we were eventually able to get this move approved and Scott will finally make his coaching return to the OPL.
What are your goals with Essendon in 2018, Abyss never made playoffs is that the benchmark?
We have a lot of goals as a club but the biggest one is that will be striving to finish top 3 in Split 1 and win the League in Split 2. This will no doubt be a challenging task but the players have a lot of confidence in the new line up and we are going to field one of our most competitive rosters to date. We have huge plans in between Split 1 and 2 which should really strengthen our roster and bond as a team, I can’t comment on it too much at this stage but we are really excited about the prospect.
Why the relocation to Melbourne? Why do you/Essendon believe this makes sense over the preferred option of Sydney?
One of the biggest complaints the players have across the league is that they live in the same place as they train. It’s really hard from a management side to define the boundary between work and play when it comes to gaming. With the teams move to Melbourne, we will still have a Gaming House where the team will live as a group but we will be travelling to Essendon’s facilities every day to scrim and review vods. This is going to have a massive advantage and it’s the same thing the Direwolves are doing with the Sydney Cricket Ground. I don’t believe Sydney is that much of a preferred option for many teams, it’s a rather expensive city to live in but due to the Studio being in Sydney, many teams don’t have a choice. With more investment and AFL clubs looking to join, I think we will see more clubs move out of NSW and into their preferred state.
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And a big thank you to Nathan for his contribution where you can Follow him on twitter @Euphoraz