Out of the 4 teams who qualified for Melbourne Esports Open, Kanga Esports are the only one without previous team LAN experience. They are the rookies and the underdogs heading into the finals, but you cannot discount them.
Having started in Open Division Season 1, Kanga Esports qualified for Contenders Season 1 in 7-8th. While they beat Witchhunt (JAM Gaming) and Pantheon Esports (Tainted Minds), they were knocked out at the hands of Your Name Here (Blank Blue/ORDER) and Stunner Meal w/ Caramel Sundae (Legacy Esports) early in the bracket.
For Contenders Season 1, their Open Division roster of Guzto, Roro and Pzza was bolstered with Merit, davi, Locus, Ziggy and Bane. However the roster didn’t find much success, finishing fourth in their group and being knocked out in Round 1 of playoffs by Masterminds.
Their roster since then has undergone a complete overhaul, with only Roro remaining from the team who played in Open Division. Role-swapping Davi from support to offtank after the departure of Ziggy, and bringing in experienced coaches Maid and kc alongside JungleJazz and NA import ChroNoDotA, Kanga has played exceptionally well to storm to second in Group B.
The team has grown a lot under the tutelage of Maid. ChroNoDotA playing on 160 ping might be considered a disadvantage, but he has brought stability and solid shotcalling from NA – something Australia isn’t known for.
While their roster on paper might not sound as talented as the likes of ORDER, Dark Sided or Sydney Drop Bears, they have shown strength to punch above their weight.
Their first step to cementing their place in the history books is beating Sydney Drop Bears in the semi-final. A tough challenge, but the Drop Bears showed their first sign of weakness against SereNity after dropping a map. Besides this, they are still considered the best team in Australia, and Kanga are wary of it.
WATCH: Locus hacks the game so hard Davi’s mech explodes, netting Kanga 4 kills against Legacy in the Contenders Australia Quarter Finals.
I spoke with coach Thomas “Maid” Mok, assistant coach Krishna “kc” Malada and manager Kai “iscu” Zhang about the team’s turnaround, the daunting task of facing Sydney Drop Bears and their future.
Now this season’s finals is Kanga’s first ever LAN. Any nerves in the camp?
Maid: I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t some amount of nerves, but I think most people are excited because this is an opportunity they have never had before.
It’s completely new territory for the team, going from almost Trials for Season 2 into Finals, so there’s been a lot of development. What’s been the most critical factor in the team’s improvement?
Maid: Firstly, it’ll be having an actual coach and support staff – me, iscu and kc came on to help the team, and between the three of us we’ve made a very big difference.
The second one would have been replacing players. While pzza was a great player, ChroNoDotA has brought a lot to the team with his calling style and knowledge of the game that as a team we didn’t have before.
Kc: I definitely agree with what Maid said about ChroNoDotA. He’s an integral part of the team. He’s a super upbeat guy, and bringing him on alongside the coaching staff has made a drastic improvement in the team.
Even then, you can bring in ‘better’ players but everyone can improve. Who do you think has grown the most this season, and has the biggest opportunity to go further in their career?
Kc: It’s probably a tie for me. The two players who have improved the most and have the ability to go further are Locus and ChroNoDotA. They both have the right mindset, they both work incredibly hard and they’ll do hours and hours of reviews outside of team-based review to keep improving. They definitely have the drive and the talent to make it.
Maid: Locus was a player, when coming into the team – and I don’t call anyone a one-trick – but his hero pool and his willingness to pick up heroes and improve himself is unparalleled. He is by far the most coachable player I’ve ever worked with.
Iscu: I think ChroNoDotA’s mindset is really good – that’s what sets him apart.
Group B was a hotly contested group, with not much separating 1 to 5 throughout the season. Do you think the ‘tougher’ competition helped you develop as a team?
Maid: I haven’t really thought about this a tonne. I’m going to make a big claim here but I think Group B was a lot harder than Group A. I definitely feel like SereNity in this group would have beaten Legacy in Group A, and gone even with ORDER. Every Contenders has a strong group and a weak group, and we were in the strong group.
With that experience, do you think you have a chance of getting over the Drop Bears? What will it take?
Iscu: The team has been working really hard and I think they can do it, but Drop Bears is a really tough opponent.
Maid: We have a chance – it’s what we’ve been working towards. The Drop Bears is a pretty big hill to climb over, but I mean if anyone is going to do it it’s going to be us or whoever they face in the Grand Final.
Kc: I mean, they’re going to be the only two teams to be able to do it.
And if you can climb that hill of the Sydney Drop Bears, do you think you’ll be able to win at MEO?
Maid: I think we can beat Dark Sided or ORDER from the other semi-final if we can get over the Drop Bears. We are a powerful team. The entire team has been training for an immense number of hours.
Kc: ChroNoDotA has been going on two hours of sleep to make this happen.
Maid: He’s not even lying.
Kc: Yeah, he has school, he has other stuff, he watches VODs and does scrims. The amount of work he puts in is mental, and it’s all going to pay off for him.
And after this season’s run, where do you think your futures lie with Kanga or in other teams and scenes?
Maid: I feel like anyone who’s been a part of Kanga has a great chance of going further in the Overwatch competitive scene. Everyone I’ve worked with so far this season has been amazing to work with. If anyone is out there looking for support staff, I’d very much consider picking up iscu or kc.
Kc: I’m thinking about going back to NA Contenders, but I’m also thinking of taking a break for school.
Iscu: Same deal, I’m thinking about going back to NA or Korea or taking a break.
Maid: iscu’s been a massive help in headhunting in Korea for scrims, he’s everything I could ask for in a manager.