There’s many names for our wonderful country. New Zealand. Aotearoa. Land of the Long White Cloud. Kiwiland. Middle Earth. But soon all the Aussies will be calling us League of Origin Champions for 2018.
We’ve had some good times, us and the Aussies, I won’t deny that. But when the time rolls around to enter Summoners Rift, our boys will avenge the 1981 cricket match, the battle over the humble pavlova and every slight handed to us by those koalas across the ditch.
Last year, us Kiwis placed second in the group stage before dropping to Victoria in the semis. Led by Cameron “Crunch” Russell with Chippys in the top lane, Legacy coach Soulstrikes in the jungle, Raes role swapping to mid with now Echo Fox ADC Lost and Cupcake rounding out the bot lane.
The team was coached by Jonny “Saiclone” Weatherly, who’s made a return to the New Zealanders this year as General Manager. I spoke to him as part of the buildup to this year’s event as well as Scott “Windowsmonkey” Farmer, coach for the Bombers who takes Saiclone’s place as coach of the NZ team.
This year the two have put together a fearsome squad, and these five players are bound to strike fear into the hearts of the Aussies. I mean, it’s not that hard to scare them, their national colours are yellow and green! Anyway, onto our mighty nation’s first player.
Saiclone: Chippys is a weapon, and I’m very glad he’s on our team.
Saiclone’s words ring true, as the self-proclaimed “Best in the Ocean” definitely has the credentials to back it up. Part of the victorious Dire Wolves from 2017 to the end of Split 1 2018, any top laner that goes up against him, either in solo queue or a competitive game will walk away with many a bruise as a warning not to cross Chippys again.
Saiclone: Decoy has been unchained from the bot lane, so expect some River Shen level pressure. The transition from Support to jungle should be the easiest transition. He’s preparing well and feels confident
We’re so good at League of Legends that we’re going to send a support to tangle with the likes of Babip, Spookz and Only, and it’s not Decoy that’ll be walking away with a negative KDA. Saiclone says he’s feeling confident, and he should be. It’s not like he’s facing off against Worlds MVP Ning or OCE’s best jungler in Shernfire.
Saiclone: Ari has been playing Urgot since before it was cool.
Shok has been the perennial Kiwi in the OPL, the star of the NZ-based Tectonic lineup, signed after stomping everyone in Challenger whilst still in high school. Renowned for his pocket Urgot, he was vindicated after priority soared the world over and showed that even after Rutherford and Jackson, the Kiwis can be innovators.
Saiclone: Raes is one of those special AD players who thinks as fast as his hands can move, and I fully expect him to come up clutch at least twice.
When Raes joined the OPL, he had big shoes to fill. But the so-called “Pentakill King” has more than stepped up to the challenge, and can easily go toe-to-toe with any of those Australian ADCs. Well, not toe-to-toe, expect him to dance around the opposition and leave them in the dust.
Saiclone: Pluto is my secret weapon, that’s all I can tell you.
And lastly, we have Team New Zealand’s super sub, current Avant ADC Pluto. He spent most of the year biding his time in the OCS before bounding up to save AV from relegation against Tectonic. But now he’s here, and should the team need it, expect him to fly in and banish the Australians back to his planetary namesake. Don’t worry though, the Australians should be fine out there, most of their country might as well be another planet anyway.
Saiclone: Cupcake’s vision score is low because he’s too busy reading the enemies’ minds to waste time putting down wards.
Cupcake is anything but, and even in retirement I’m sure he’ll arrive at Margaret Court Arena with a vengeance. Also part of the Dire Wolves’ campaign this year, he set up many of k1ng’s rampages, and with him alongside Raes instead of k1ng, expect a new bot lane duo to take over Oceania.
Moving on the teams that the Kiwis will go up against, Saiclone had a few choice comments. On Victoria, the team that knocked us out last year, he said “[they have] a lot of strong players, but the question is always whether they’ll be willing to work together.”
And he’s right, with plenty of big personalities such as Jackson “Pabu” Pavone and Calvin “k1ng” Truong, the individually strong Victorians can tear themselves apart as easily as they could the other Australians in the competition.
Both Raes, the legendary Kiwi ADC as well as Chippys, New Zealand’s own monster in the toplane believe that Victoria have definitely dropped down this year, with Chippys noting that “VIC threw away any chance they had of winning by not picking up the only good Melbourne player Richard “Phantiks” Su.”
K1ng is definitely the player to watch out for in the Victorian lineup, but as Windowsmonkey astutely mentioned, “K1ng has to lane with Jayke, so this should limit his impact”. The Avant support is getting on in years in his competitive career, plus his dog has made him far too soft and erased any killer instinct he might have left.
He also mentioned that Pabu along with New South Wales’ Swip3rR “can only play potato top tanks” which when going up against the legend himself in Chippys is just asking for punishment. At least if they play Mundo they can pretend they’re enjoying it.
The Victorians won’t be beating us or the other “big” player in this year’s League of Origin, New South Wales. Dubbed the “expensive compromise between VIC and QLD.” by Saiclone, the wealth of experience in this NSW side could prove their undoing. An event like this requires flexibility of communication, playstyle, etc and sometimes more experience can make it harder to pivot when needed.
But unlike Victoria and the sickly-looking Queensland, our team is cautious of Team NSW, even if it just because they could easily do us dirty much like fellow NSW man Trevor Chappell. Raes said “NSW have a really solid roster and are looking like the clear favourites based on players alone.” with Chippys also noting “I think the only team we’ll have to watch out for is NSW since their mid and bot is really good “
They’ll pick up wins over Victoria for sure, and for NZ’s last opposition, I think everyone will be walking over Queensland. Only Saiclone has any faith in the men from the Sunshine State, telling me “If these guys could have 2 top laners at once they’d be insane. Alas, there are also jungle camps on the bot side of the map, so they’ll have to make some compromises. Expect these guys to have one strategy, and to do it really well.”
I mean, when two legends of Oceanic League of Legends tell you that “I can’t remember any of the players except Babip so I’m sure they’ll be free” and “Queensland are by far the worst team at the event and I would be surprised to see them take a game off anyone,” it is pretty damning.
I also talked to Windowsmonkey about the meta, and he had this to say. “I think the game is quite chaotic at the moment. A lot of fighting and high risk plays. Laning strength is probably the most valuable asset for a player to have.” And who better to take advantage of this than the Kiwis?
The team is feeling their impending victory, with Chippys commenting “We definitely need to get some revenge for last year and show those Aussies that New Zealand is the best” as well as Windowsmonkey saying “NZ can stomp everyone of course. I believe we have really strong laners and individual players who will be able to snowball lanes both with topside and bot side focused strategy.”
The stage is set for the biggest stomp of the year as the Kiwis take on not one, not two, but three Aussie teams. And it’s not going to even stop us!
Just be careful in case some of the cheating koalas boot up a sneaky word.exe so they only lose by 20k gold instead of 30k. It’s time to raise the kiwis!