Ex-Breakaway Esports team manager Blake “Zeror” Mitchell has uncovered the messy story behind the New Zealand organisation’s release of their playing roster just hours before the Contenders roster lock, from “absurd buyouts” to “headsets held together by sticky tape”.
Zeror revealed in a TwitLonger released on Sunday, February 17 that the behind-the-scenes of the organisation had turned sour before the recent roster release, with allegations of broken verbal agreements, micromanagement and a deteriorating team environment all heaping on the problems during their Season 3 2018 Contenders run.
After their Trials campaign saw them fail to qualify for Season 1 2019, Zeror spoke about his experience under the New Zealand based esports organisation, which operates teams across multiple esports in Oceania and is owned by National Basketball League organisation the New Zealand Breakers.
Zeror spoke about how Breakaway Esports general manager Freddie “Sheep” Tresidder overrode Zeror and Typhoon’s – the team’s coach – ability to run the team. Zeror claimed Sheep went as far as to force the staff to build a rotating roster, of which players would have to compete to get paid for that week.
Sheep has declined to comment on Zeror’s allegations.
“Only the core [roster] of each week would be paid, [and] we were immediately issued the task of building a terrible working team environment with no assets to do it either,” Zeror said in his TwitLonger.
A myriad of trust issues, according to Zeror, also left him lost in the team environment.
“Regularly I was told exactly what to do – in some instances word-for-word what to say to players,” he said.
“I quickly became really demotivated and less trusting in the strategy of the organisation.”
“It even got to the point of Sheep being so personally invested in our team that he was demanding certain players to play or not play – completely inhibiting our chances of giving our best performance for the sake of putting his foot down.”
As the team slowly slid down the ladder in a very competitive Group B, Sheep was demanding more results from the team and became erratic and aggressive behind the scenes, according to team sources.
“He wanted certain players kicked from the team out of the blue, or wanted a player brought back into the core despite not being the best in-slot pick, simply because he was ‘impressed by them,’” said Zeror.
One player (Player A) who was a part of the organisation, revealed to Snowball Esports on condition of anonymity that during their time on the team they felt their position was safe before unexpectedly being left off the roster.
“When I got kicked, I didn’t think I had any bad blood with everyone,” Player A said of their situation on the team. “The only thing I could think of was Sheep and his erratic decisions coming into the end of the season. We would never hear from him one-on-one, but he seemed like he wanted to have control of the team and had Zeror and Typhoon under his thumb.”
“As far as I know, he hasn’t ever come into a scrim with the team, watched one of our games or even played Overwatch recently. He only got fed the numbers to make his mind up about decisions and that overruled the hard work Zeror and Typhoon put into the team.”
Zeror backed up that statement in his recently released Twitlonger, stating that more and more of his decisions were getting overruled, and that “it was becoming glaringly obvious that he, for some absurd reason, knew better than the coaching staff in regard to Overwatch decisions”.
Player A also alleged Sheep frequently came into the team Discord voice channels during scrims to yell at the training players.
“Whenever we were even two minutes late to joining the call, Sheep would come in and scream at us and say that if we did it again we would be kicked without warning,” Player A said. “One time I was in the in-game lobby, but in a call with another player and he got angry when I got into the call late.”
According to the former player, Sheep made multiple verbal promises to players about equipment, saying the org will be willing to replace broken equipment like “headsets held together by sticky tape for months”, but nothing was ever done.
On top of those personal problems, it was alleged there were promises that the Breakaway Esports players would receive gear from the current New Zealand Breakers sponsorships, including “a pair of new Nikes every two months”, but the now-released player confirmed these were yet to arrive.
Heading into the Trials campaign, the issues were growing after the roster failed to meet expectations of a Top 4 finish, falling to Sydney Drop Bears 3-0 in their quarter final. Sheep had received a document from William “Volonte” McCallum, who was working with Sheep on Breakaway’s Xmas Meme Bonanza at the time, outlining the misgivings of the team, which Zeror called “just straight garbage”.
“Some of these were on target but we already knew about…[but] he included a huge paragraph about Dfield’s supposed lack of commitment for going to Korea during Contenders, … [including] booking a trip to see his girlfriend the one time of the year he can 9 months in advance, and then agreeing to scrim 12-15 hours a week and wake up at 6:00am to walk to a PC Bang, install OPR and play officials [on game days].”
Zeror said the general manager stated “you don’t see anyone else taking a holiday in the middle of a season…[and] it’s his job to show up for a minimal amount of time in the year”.
According to Zeror, Sheep also went over his head to bring Volonte on as an assistant manager, a move that the Breakaway coach said blew him away considering “there were no good relationships between Volonte and any of [the team’s] players”.
“I was so angry and had to let him know and that’s what it took [to keep my job]…he wasn’t going to back down that easily,” Zeror said. “He insisted Volonte “assisted” me with the trial process in an “invisible to the public” role to scout talent [I already scouted].”
With the clashing personalities on the team coming to a head, Zeror left Breakaway at the end of Season 3, despite Sheep trying to entice Zeror with more managerial roles within the organisation.
“Sheep believed he was acting like a true general manager and as the team manager I should counteract and work against him to ensure [the team] remain focused and motivated,” he said.
“I personally think making your players terrified of interacting with you after kicking them in the dirt isn’t good practice…[and] I feel like as a team manager I should be working with my organisation to achieve the best for the players, not butting heads.”
— Blake (@zerorbm) February 18, 2019
A second TwitLonger was released by Zeror on the 18th Feb detailing the contract terminations of the remaining players.
On February 18th, Breakaway Esports released the players that had represented them in the Trials campaign, allowing them a window of time to seek opportunities in the newest Contenders season just hours before the roster lock. For some of those players, like Player B, who is now on a Contenders roster and also spoke to us under condition of anonymity, it was a relief so close to the start of the season.
“I was offered a couple of sports on various Contenders teams, but teams didn’t want to pay my buyout fee. I was scared I was going to miss playing Contenders this season,” Player B said.
“I’m grateful Breakaway has turned around and done the right thing, but if it wasn’t for the TwitLonger nothing would have happened.”
However for Zeror, the disappointment still lingers in another opportunity in Oceanic esports possibly proving too good to be true.
“I’m sad my players got screwed over by an organisation attempting to make money off players. I’m disappointed an organisation contributes to the already ongoing trust issues Australian players have.”