It’s Australia vs New Zealand in the thrilling conclusion of High School League for 2018, as New Zealand’s Rangitoto College do battle against Western Australia’s Willetton Senior High School.
After months of competing in local, regional, national and now international competitions, the Australia/New Zealand High School League will reach its epic finale on October 20th in a trans-Tasman battle for the ages.
Rangitoto hail from Auckland’s North Shore, an area of New Zealand’s most populous city with over 250,000 people. The college itself plays host to around 3,200 students making it the biggest school in the country.
With the amount of students, there was no doubt that many of them played League, with multiple teams being entered by the school into the New Zealand High School League competition organised by letsplay.live.
Their main squad, however, has been one of the most dominant in secondary-school level League of Legends in recent times, winning both national splits this year with incredibly high level play that has caught more than one team off guard.
Earlier I had the chance to speak with letsplay’s HSL Director, Matt “Smite” Ross, about the New Zealand representatives.
“Rangitoto College have been competing in NZ High School Leagues for almost 2 years now so they have a ton of experience together. They’ve also won the last two splits showing they’ve got amazing talent as well.
“Additionally the school and teacher support for Rangitoto has been excellent and definitely another factor in their success. Their teacher Stephen Gardiner has worked really well with the team to enhance their success.”
Led by their captain in the mid lane, Brian “LGD Somnus M” Yu, whose dominating performance famously led their team to victory in the qualifiers for the final from a hospital bed, Rangitoto put on convincing displays in the Nationals competition.
Not letting a pneumothorax surgery get in the way of helping his team to a finals berth, Yu as well as Buon Appetito in the toplane, White Palette in the jungle, DK playing ADC alongside lemonlord as support, swept aside Tasmania’s Elizabeth College and NSW’s Blacktown Boys High School to book their spot.
A stunning counterattack from NZ sets up DK’s Kai’Sa for a quadra kill and the game during the playoffs.
I spoke to Yu before him and his team jetted off to Sydney before the final, and he’s definitely looking forward to the contest.
“We’re feeling really excited, that we got a chance to Sydney to play the competition. I think a little bit nervous as well, cause we gonna play on a big stage, but I’m pretty sure final will be easy 3-0 sweep for us, I haven’t shown my main champs at all but I’ll play them in finals.
“As long as lemonlord doesn’t initiate early and Palette doesn’t AFK farm, our team should be fine against them in the final.”
“I think playing from the hospital was a disaster, I had to overcome the pain from the draining and surgery wounds, also hospital wifi + MacBook Air. I would say that was 20%-30% of my real strength.”
NZ Captain Brian “LGD Somnus M” Yu
They have experiences in spades, and Smite had a few words on one of the biggest threats to teams in these scenarios.
“Two things that trip up a lot of newer teams are ‘best of’ series and playing in a live environment. Rangitoto not only have experience in both but have won in those situations every time.”
Their playstyle, whilst strong, is often one-dimensional, as they rely on their mid laner and ADC to simply farm up and take over teamfights with strong mechanical play with the rest of the team playing supporting cast in the background.
Both their top and jungler are more than happy to back up their carries, with Buon Appetito coming away from the Nationals without a single death on the meta tanks Cho’Gath and Sion, while White Palette favoured roaming around flinging around ice bolas on Sejuani.
It’s not just the topside though that doesn’t like dying – lemonlord had a 70% kill participation but had only gone to a grey screen once as Rangitoto won game after game.
Speaking of deaths, Rangitoto are always eager to inflict them on their opponent and will often hunt for teamfights in order to express their crisp play. If they hold true to their style, they can definitely take out the title, Smite says.
“I think Rangitoto have a really good chance [to win] going into the Grand Finals against the WA champions. The only thing that might cause them to drop a game is their overconfidence and trying to bite off more than they can chew (although they can chew a lot).
“That said if Rangitoto do drop a game expect them to regroup and come back so much stronger in the next match. I’m really excited to see our Kiwi champions show off how truly amazing they all are.”
If Rangitoto do end up looking at a Defeat screen due to their penchant for teamfights, something many pros can attest to, the New Zealand team’s challengers will be looking to turn it against them again in their quest for the title.
Those challengers have a name, and representing Australia in this monster clash is Willetton Senior High School. Hailing from Perth, Western Australia, WSHS is the biggest public school in the state and currently has 2,200 students enrolled.
Their esports contingent is considerably smaller than that of Rangitoto, with six players comprising their main roster, as well as four substitutes and a four-strong casting team. However, that didn’t stop them as they took down Victoria’s Melbourne High School and SA’s Glenunga International High School on their way to the final.
Their playstyle differs considerably to that of Rangitoto, aiming to block out play makers in support and the jungle to let their jungler Vision and support MushroomZac pick champions that they can shine on, like Zac’s Zyra that unleashed in their match against Glenunga.
With picks like Kai’Sa firmly under his belt, Peanut is one of the strongest players on the WA side and carried his team multiple times, with even Rangitoto captain Brian Yu acknowledging it when I spoke to him.
WA group up near the Baron pit and overrun a retreating SA lineup to boost their lead.
I had a chat to their manager, Willetton Senior High teacher Jayson Bignoux about the school’s foray into esports. After video games were originally banned at the school, the team’s captain approached senior management about the creation of a team.
“So, the captain Patrick “Peanut” Bathan wrote a letter to the principal suggesting we enter HSEL as other schools were joining. The Principal was reluctant at first due to the stigma of video games i.e. violent in nature.
“He discussed with a few personnel including myself to ease his worries about League. I put myself in charge of the operation and joined the tournament. Patrick wrote a nice speech to staff here at the school that answered that question in good detail.”
The team has only been together since the start of the second split although being friends long before, they practice on weekends and individually in their free time.
“The amount of talent this New Zealand team has is insane compared to us but that doesn’t mean our drive to win isn’t as high as theirs.”
WA Captain Patrick “Peanut” Bathan
With the competition being much bigger in Australia due to the sheer size of the country, the teams had to jump through a lot more hoops, something which would prove to take up a lot of time and could get in the way of the players’ study.
But thankfully everyone involved was very supportive of the team looking to be the best in Oceania says Bignoux.
“After winning I broke the news about the quarters and semis, and most students were scared to tell their parents there was more. But the parents became supportive as it was a once in a lifetime opportunity for their children and allowed them to play.
“The team felt that they had already gone quite far when they made nationals, something which again could have been a downer on the team’s achievements as many members of the team are wrapping up their time at secondary school.
“Winning the WA Division was enough for the team. They felt they had achieved what they set out to do. Also their parents were concerned about the time commitment and the WA Grand Final was the end of the road for us.
“Our attitude was to see how we go. We didn’t think we could beat Melbourne HS, but we did prepare for them and Glenunga. We knew we could beat Glenunga so we were hyped, but mentally prepared to lose to MHS. We were WA Champions and we were okay with that, but we did want to win – so we had the motto ‘Ride the wave.'”
Good luck to our very own Willetton Senior High from WA, who will be competing in the Grand Final against Rangitoto College from New Zealand tomorrow! ? You can follow the action at https://t.co/QhqSIPROuc #LOL2018 pic.twitter.com/q0llvYOCEo
— High School Esports League (@hseleague) October 19, 2018
WA’s captain Patrick “Peanut” Bathan also had a few words on going into the final.
“As someone who isn’t too great at academics it really felt like I needed to do something I was passionate about for my last year of high school.
“Our drive to win could even be higher, we want it all. Our drive to win is why people should support Willetton SHS.
“I honestly feel great about taking on New Zealand. Their are undeniably a high elo team but if they don’t respect us and take us seriously I know for sure that we will be able to play our game, extend our lead and take the win.”
On the High School League in general, Rangitoto’s captain had a few words to all of the aspiring players out there.
“For all the high school league players, I think that improving the skill in League is much easier if they watch the pro games, then practice some by themselves. And also, for high schoolers, study is always the most important thing. Just organise the time well, finish homework first, then enjoy some game time with friends, or participate in the tournaments like this.”
Whoever wins this final, it’s sure going to be a spectacular show. If you want to watch, jump onto the OPL Twitch and YouTube channels at 2pm AEST and cheer on your team! It’s New Zealand vs Australia in the finals of High School League 2018, and it’s going to be a banger!