There are some questions as old as time itself: Does pineapple go on pizza? Tomato sauce in the fridge or the pantry? Are hot dogs sandwiches? New Zealand or Australia? Which Australian state is the best? While some of these are far too controversial to have definitive answers, others are able to be answered – at least for another year.
Last weekend, New South Wales, New Zealand, Queensland and Victoria hit Summoners’ Rift, placing their pride on the line in exchange for a potential spot in the Grand Final as they fought over three gruelling days at League of Origin.
Setting aside all rules for regional pride, friendships are burned at the stakes of competition, while former foes turned to friends forged in the flame. This is how it panned out for each team.
Dominated by OCS players, there was a notable experience gap between Queensland and the other states stacked with seasoned OPL veterans. Not to be deterred, the maroons were ready to silence the critics, all while showcasing some of the best talent in the country.
Against New Zealand on day one, they were unable to maintain their early lead in the bot lane, there was something about a Chronobreak, and then a few teamfights later they faced the state-coloured defeat screen.
A similarly unfortunate performance would be witnessed in their next game against Victoria as the rookie filled roster was simply outplayed by the veterans, particularly Claire’s Irelia, resulting in a winless day for Queensland.
Day two for the Sunshine State held a similar fate to the first. Victoria were merciless against the poor Queenslanders who were against outmatched and delivered their third loss. Against NSW, they would face a similar demise in another stomp, knocking out the Queenslanders in a cruel first two days.
However, this didn’t sway them from giving their all until the end. In a close match against New Zealand, they were unable to convert their pressure into a lead and experienced yet another loss. With one last chance to redeem themselves against NSW, it never seemed to eventuate, once again being stormed over as they finished the tournament winless.
They weren’t discouraged by the losses though. “I have things to work on now,” said Farmer, the OCS ADC using the tournament as a driver for improvement. “Living in a competitive atmosphere where everyone’s priority is learning how to be the best has given me a taste of a competitive level I’d never experienced before.”
Expectations were uncertain about New Zealand, however, this was quickly subject to change. They surprised the masses with a convincing win against Queensland in their first game, bouncing back from an enemy first blood and initial gold deficit for a small portion of the game due to a great performance across all lanes.
For their next match against NSW, they continued to dominate with only four deaths across the board – including two executes – sealing off day one for New Zealand 2-0.
Off the back of New Zealand’s day one performance, you could argue that Decoy was due a role swap. “I felt like having no pressure helps out,” the support main said, “people don’t expect much from you so you can just focus on yourself.”
The second day seemed to take a turn for the worst for Team NZ who were perhaps a bit too confident following the success of day one. In their rematch, NSW made it impossible to climb back from the gold deficit as New Zealand struggled to gain control over the map, bringing their short win-streak to an end.
They then struggled to replicate their day one performance against yet-to-be-defeated Victoria, choking out the Kiwis. This wasn’t the end for them, however; with two wins under their belt, potential remained for them to qualify for the finals.
With the weight of the nation carried on their shoulders, they carried into day three. Fighting for their chance at finals, New Zealand went up against the undefeated Victoria once again, but struggled to keep up with the high tempo.
They recovered in their final game against Queensland in a back-and-forth game, but it was not enough to secure a spot in the finals, finishing 3-3 overall just behind NSW at 4-2.
“I think pick-ban was hard for us on the blue side and it led to skewed matchups,” Decoy admitted. “We figured out what was wrong in our picks/bans a bit too late in the tournament.” Either way, the Kiwis can still hold their heads high after a valiant attempt to dethrone the kings and queens of Oceanic League of Legends.
From the reveal of the team, Team New South Wales were thought to be a strong contender for the win, made up of some of the OPL’s top players. However, for the boys in light blue, it wasn’t as easy as it was made out to be.
Despite a good start in their first game against Victoria, they ended the match without taking any turrets as they bowed to a swift defeat. Revitalizing the roster with the armoured titan didn’t seem to help for game two as Chippys on Aatrox rolled over NSW to give them a 0-2 start.
Yet, despite ending the first day with both games lost, they persisted with wide smiles, perhaps as a testament for what was to come. “I think the rough start was due to everyone getting back into the game and not executing our plans on stage and changing them last minute,” NSW top laner BioPanther jested.
NSW carried into game one of day two with their heads held high, bouncing back from the result as a totally different team as they went against New Zealand again.
Players from across the map had a fantastic performance, with an exceptionally clean Mountain Drake steal from Only on Kindred followed by an ace by the rest of his team to secure their first victory of the tournament.
This was only the beginning of the comeback. Against Queensland in game two, they maintained absolute control over the map, walking away with a 2-0 on day two and a redeemed chance for a spot at finals.
Going into day three, neck and neck with New Zealand, they needed to best their trans-Tasman rivals on record to qualify for the grand final. They slayed the seemingly dominant Victoria to hand them their only loss in the group stage – even taking the time to pad their stats underneath their fountain.
They then went on to swiftly obliterate the winless Queenslanders, wearing the same smile they won on day one but with two totally different results. They were due a rematch for the title against Victoria and they are ready to come out all guns blazing in Melbourne.
“As a team, we felt confident coming into the event even though we went 0-2 on day one,” said BioPanther. “We knew that we could bounce back due to the synergies we build up together in such a short time during the bootcamp. Everyone wanted to just have a #NSWWIN this year!”
As the reigning champions of League of Origin, this lineup of star players can only be described as VICious, driven forward by their successful results of last year along with the potential of playing for a home crowd in the finals.
They played a dominant game one against NSW, absolutely demolishing the roster of some of the OPL’s best players without mercy shown. With ease, they carried this through to game two against Queensland, pushing it a step further against the newer roster as they quickly snowballed until they were no longer able to keep up, ending 18k gold ahead of the lineup with standout performances from Claire and k1ng.
Showing no signs of stopping on day two, Claire burst down New Zealand’s hopes of staying undefeated on LeBlanc in their first game of the day, maintaining their own perfect record. Their rematch against Queensland was a similar story, but instead it was Pabu dominating the game with an early quadra suffocating the rookies out of the game.
With a perfect record and a place at Margaret Court Arena secured, Victoria didn’t seem to be slowing down against New Zealand on day three as k1ng’s Xayah being vital to their fifth victory. Only one win away from the perfect record, NSW turned the tables, putting on a show as they downed Victoria in the pre-show for the finals.
“We weren’t expecting to take first out of groups,” mid laner Swiffer admitted, “but we are pretty happy with the result.”
Losing to NSW took a bit of wind out of Victoria’s sails though, with Swiffer saying “the seed of doubt has been planted in our minds.” Regardless, with an outstanding score of 5-1, they were on their way to a home grand final, where they will be seeking revenge for that last game loss.
By placing players that don’t typically interact with each other alongside one another, it creates a fresh dynamic and synergy between a team, even if just for a short while, which can offer valuable insight and connections for a player.
“Honestly, most players outside of the Dire Wolves, I never interacted or talked with properly and with this whole event I was able to talk to different people throughout the OPL and grew closer to the scene because of it!”
Brandon “Biopanther” Alexander
Origin is the perfect time to harness their teamwork, mechanics and competitive spirit all in the name of regional pride. Driven by fans divided by state lines, it helping individual players to grow and gain an understanding of one another along with themselves.
“I think it’s cool how the players come together; you hear things about players and what they’re like under pressure but you don’t really get to experience it until something like this. Now is an opportunity to see what I’ve learnt this year and see what I need to tune for next year.”
Simon “Swiffer” Papamarkos
It can often remind them players of why they enjoy the competitive nature of the game in the first place, especially in a time where it’s somewhat vacant, reigniting motivation that may have fallen off in the off season.
“Playing some comp games made me realize how much I love being in the competitive scene. Being in off season feels so bad and I’m just itching to play again.”
Daniel “Decoy” Ealam
While Origin is after all for regional pride, the stakes are different for each player. Although Team New South Wales and Victoria are heading to Margaret Court Arena on November 17 for the grand finals, all players managed to take something out with them whether they won or lost.
“This was my first experience interacting with a team in person over more than a single day so it gave me the opportunity to confront and evaluate my behaviour outside of the game for the first time. I feel like I grew more in this week than I have all year.”
George “Farmer” Normore
Snowball Esports will be covering the League of Origin Grand Final live on the ground on November 17. Be sure to catch our special preview of the VIC vs NSW showdown tomorrow.