When it comes to pro gaming, Australia isn’t quite on the level of the best North America, Asian, or European teams. We’re almost always seen as the “run withs”: good, never great, but still prepared to bring a fighting chance against the world’s best.
A bit like our showings at the FIFA World Cup over the years, we do what we need to compete, and eventually, almost always, we find ourselves up against a juggernaut. Rarely do we get the benefit of the schedule in the hope of achieving ultimate glory. There’s always a Germany, a Brazil, or an Italy standing in our way. But that’s a good thing: we want the hard path, and we want the opportunity to beat down on the best of the best.
Pro gaming it seems is no different. And when it comes to Overwatch esports, Australia just doesn’t seem to get the respect it deserves.
Not that it matters, because the results do the talking and so far the results have been rather convincing. But in a professional scene dominated by the same identities, teams and countries, Australia always finds itself battling unfair perceptions of irrelevance.
This week’s Overwatch World Cup group stage qualifiers in Sydney went a long way to establishing Team Australia as a force in Overwatch esports. The identity still has a long way to go, and it’s going to need a scalp of the likes of a Korea or a China along the way, but the baby steps made this past weekend have our national heroes well on the way to BlizzCon glory.
In an interview with Dotesports, Australia’s team captain, Andrew “Rqt” Haws, said Australia was mostly underrated by the best Overwatch players and teams, although he admitted that there is a “disparity” between Australia and the US.
“At the high end there is always going to be good players, and I think our team is a little underestimated by some of the overseas teams that haven’t had the chance to play us,” Rqt said. “The last six months we’ve had the chance to practice against Korean teams. They are the best region, so I think that’s an advantage to us if other teams underestimate us.”
During this weekend’s group stage qualifiers, Australia beat down on Italy and Portugal 4-0, lost to tournament heavyweights Sweden 3-1, before bouncing back to trounce the fancied Japan 3-2 to progress to November’s playoffs.
Early during its battle with Italy, we heard how Team Australia had actively made an effort to scrimmage with Korean teams so as to improve its adaptability when playing top-tier teams. The benefit for Korean pros was that they could practice in a friendly environment against a neutral opponent, and not risk giving tactics away to a regional competitor.
That initiative demonstrates a willingness to not only improve and learn from the best, but to also ensure that Team Australia actually knows what it takes to win in unfavourable situations.
The challenge for Team Australia extends beyond David vs Goliath battles against Korean and Chinese pros. The Australian Overwatch scene is unique in its application of team composition, communication and competitiveness, and in some ways that acts as a roadblock for a team hellbent on climbing the ranks and gaining respect.
This is why Team Australia — formerly Blank Esports, made up of the best Overwatch players in the land — finds itself seeking out genuine challenge in hostile environments.
Hostility wasn’t quite what the team faced over the weekend, cheered on by a rowdy home crowd that watched Team Australia trounce Japan in arguably the best match of the tournament so far.
Team Australia now finds itself firmly embedded in the Top 8 alongside Sweden, China and France, with the 8th-seeded French team next on the chopping block for our Aussies.
That we find ourselves among some of the juggernauts of the Overwatch world goes to show that it might be time to start taking Team Australia seriously, and that it’s more than just a “run with” team making up the numbers.
Overwatch World Cup – Sydney Group Stage qualifiers results
- Sweden drew Portugal 2-2
- Australia defeated Italy 4-0
- Finland defeated Vietnam 4-0
- Japan defeated Spain 3-1
- Sweden defeated Italy 4-0
- Australia defeated Portugal 4-0
- Japan defeated Vietnam 4-0
- Spain defeated Finland 4-0
- Sweden defeated Australia 3-1
- Portugal defeated Italy 4-0
- Spain defeated Vietnam 4-0
- Finland drew Japan 2-2
- Sweden defeated Spain 3-0
- Australia defeated Japan 3-2