Kanga Esports has always led the way for Oceania in Paladins tournaments, most recently claiming a top eight finish at the Hi-Rez-hosted World Championships in the United States, and now they have a chance to do it on another big stage – the Paladins Premier League.
The franchised system, organised and ran in-house by game developer Hi-Rez Studios in a similar manner to Riot Games’ implementation of closed competitions like the League of Legends Championship Series in North America, will see Kanga Esports join seven other high-level organisations in the new multi-region league.
The news comes after Hi-Rez Studios announced they would be removing the already founded regional leagues from the tournament circuit, replacing them with a single premier competition organised by Skillshot Media, the tournament operator arm of the game company.
We are proud to announce that we will be joining the Paladins Pro League! ? #PPL
Our team will be setting up base at the Kanga Training Facility in Atlanta, USA. ??Make sure to follow @KangaEsports so you don’t miss out on any of the action!@PaladinsPro @PaladinsGame ? pic.twitter.com/rWBdcgJHOS
— Kanga Esports (@KangaEsports) January 16, 2019
For Kanga Esports founder and current head coach of the dominant Oceanic squad Hayden “Haydz” Shiels, the acceptance into the franchise system laid down by Hi-Rez is the end of a long path from independent foundations to the big leagues.
“I started out as a player, and when there were discussions about the playing roster we had looking for an organisation to represent when we were unsigned I thought to myself ‘I can do this just as well or better’ and set about doing that,” Shiels explained.
“Kanga is in Paladins, Overwatch and a number of fighting games, and in recent times we showed with our Paladins roster that we can contest matches against the best in the world.
“Our roster made it through the qualifying rounds of the championship late last year, putting us into the quarter-finals, and although we lost out there to get a top eight finish we did lose to the best team in the world, and the eventual winners.”
Although it was just a top eight finish for Kanga Esports in that late-2018 tournament, it forced Hi-Rez to sit up and take notice of the feisty Australian organisation that had come from nothing to a dominant placing at the international event.
When it came time for the Premier League to expand, Hi-Rez knew they had a strong organisation that was interested in Paladins waiting down under to bring a new flair to the competition, an opportunity Shiels grabbed with both hands.
“We’re going to have a base – the Kanga Gaming House – in Atlanta that is going to have all our players that compete at the completely LAN-based event, so that we can be close to everything for fans, scrims and more,” Haydz explained.
“The fact that we can go out there and have an office right in the thick of it is really important to us.”
Shiels explained when Kanga was first negotiating sponsors, the fact they were looking for international companies to sign on to the organisation meant many had to pull out, simply due to the fact they didn’t have a proper way to manage business in Australia.
“We are sponsored by Cougar Gaming at the moment, and that’s kind of because when I started speaking to them they were interested, and then they went through the processes of creating an Australian branch of their company so that we could seal the deal,” he said.
“Now that we’re going to be based in Atlanta, when we’re trying to show people what the organisation is like, and have meetings with them or ask them to send us documents and papers, we can point them to this address in America that doesn’t convolute the whole process.
“I think it’ll mean that Kanga can secure more sponsors and continue to grow. That’s our main aim, we want to give our players the best platform that they can perform on, and that means we need backing and sponsors surrounding the team.”
Kanga has been flying Australian flag in competitive Paladins for some time now, most recently entering the 2019 championship with an all-Aussie roster of Joelz, ninim, kronicx, Koorland and ausrhino, and the plan for the organisation is to continue to foster that growth from Down Under in 2019 and beyond.
They have continued the Australian trend with their competitive roster with Joel “Joelz” Shiels, Daniel “kronicx” and ShouBrodie “ausrhino” Ryan remaining in the tank, flex and damage roles respectively.
Kanga has also added international flavour to his roster for the 2019 season, with former Fnatic captain Jordy “Gerrah” Haast joining the squad alongside ex-G2 Esports damage player Nathan “Evulli” Lee.
Evulli was part of the G2 Esports lineup that defeated Fnatic 4-1 in the Paladins Premier League Summer Split Final in 2018. Kanga’s new Dutch support Gerrah was on the losing side of that best-of-seven series.
As of the publication of this piece, former Kanga Esports damage star and the first Australian to transfer to the Premier League, Dylan “DiGeDoG” Chainski has not been announced on a 2019 roster. It is expected Chainski will return to Ninjas in Pyjamas, the organisation he has represented since June of last year.
Kanga Esports’ Paladins Premier League Roster Announcement. Source: @KangaEsports on Twitter.
While Shiels admitted the squad has seen non-Australians join its ranks simply because they “don’t want to shy away from good talent if it’s available”, the Kanga founder revealed the company would still have a heavy focus on the Australian scene now that the responsibility of organising local and domestic competitions on home shores has fallen to them.
“We’re going to be operating most of the Paladins tournaments held back in Oceania now that we’re not involved so much in that scene, so we don’t have a competitive interest,” Shiels said.
“Hi-Rez is going to be helping with that so that the scene can continue to grow in Australia, and that means that we’ll get to see more people getting involved and playing the game.”
For Kanga, the chance to cultivate new Oceanic talent to bring over to the United States-based LAN tournament would be just one of their goals heading into their bright future, but a key one.
“We’d love to see more Australian talent coming into the team, like I said we’re not going to limit ourselves to just that kind of recruitment but it’s definitely something we want to go for”
Haydz, Kanga Esports Founder
“I always want to see those kind of players being given that chance and if we can give it to them in the Paladins Premier League then I’m all for it.” he said.
Despite the aim for Oceanic growth and the instability moving halfway across the world may bring, Shiels is confident about one objective for the organisation as they move into their new home in the PPL – aiming for a top four finish at the year-end World Championships.
“We made top eight last time but I think we were really even better than that and the draw really gave us that run of bad luck, but this time I want to go even further than that,” the Kanga mogul said. “The team can definitely get into the top four, especially if we’re playing against some of the best talent week-in and week-out and learning from that as we go.”
“That’s our objective as we play across 2019 in Paladins, to go that one step further and shoot for top four, at least. We could even go further than that, and that would be amazing, but top four is the next step beyond what we’ve managed so far. I know we can do it.”
Kanga Esports will be competing against seven other teams in their first season in the top Paladins league – Ninjas In Pyjamas, NAVI, Envy, Virtus Pro, Pittsburgh Knights, Renegades and SpaceStation GG.
The league will begin on Thursday, March 14, and will be played entirely at the Skillshot Media Esports Studios as a Hi-Rez Studios supported LAN event. The league’s preseason matches will begin one month earlier on February 7, with all franchised teams confirmed to be involved.
If you’re interested in signing up for the Kanga-run, CyberGamer-hosted Oceanic tournaments you can find more information here.
Follow the organisation on Twitter at @KangaEsports to hear all the news, reveals and results as the Oceanic organisation forges new paths in the Paladins Premier League.