Saturday, 17 November 2018

Contenders Australia Season Three: Previewing The Contenders


With the Overwatch World Cup complete and a few month until the Overwatch League begins, the regional Contenders tournament is just around the corner to provide us with our professional Overwatch fix. Season three starts tomorrow and while every region has their favourite teams and their must watch matches lined up, one region that has the potential to be very competitive to watch  after a huge change the landscape this off-season is Australia.

Coming off the back of Australia's second straight top eight finish at the Overwatch World Cup, the Contenders Australia off-season has been anything but dull. Two of the scene's best players have moved on to other teams's, with Ex-Sydney Drop Bears New Zealander DPS Kelsey "Colourhex" Birse being signed by the Boston Uprising just prior to the Season Two finals at MEO and Ex-Blank Esports Main Tank Ashley "Trill" Powell joining Team Envy via the Sydney Drop Bears. It's not only players that have moved on for the third season of Contenders Australia with Kanga Esports losing  Thomas "Maid" Mok to North American Contenders team Second Wind, Seetoh "JohnGalt" Jian Qing going to the Los Angeles Gladiators after Dark Sided disbanded and Blank Esports coach Daniel "Seksi" Alcocer moving on for new opportunities. 

While there have been a few key people leaving Contenders Australia, the level  lot of talent that has stayed with in the scene is still high. Australia has also seen the return of Blank Esports from Contenders Pacific after storming through open trials and with the recently announced changes to all Contenders outside of North America. The top six teams qualify for Contenders season four and the season three playoffs. While the bottom six teams will play against the top two teams from Open Trials, for the last two spots in season four. Before that though, I'll be going through my top four teams that I think will compete for the title. 


Sydney Drop Bears

The two time reigning and defending champions have had the best team for the last two Contenders season and were looking to be strong coming into season three. Despite that fact that the Drop Bears have had the strongest roster in Austrialia, Coach Sam "Face" Merewether decided that he could upgrade that roster with a bold move in releasing four of his six starters, only keeping Support players Lachlan "Bertlog" Main and Dario "Akraken" Falcao-Rassokha on the starting roster as Flex DPS player Marin "Shoyo" Tomicic was moved to a subsitite/coaching role. Face and the Drop Bears managed to sign Team Australia quartet Huseyin "Hus" Sahin, Felix "ckm" Murray, Ashley and "Trill" Powell from Blank, while also picking up Leyton "Punk" Gilchrist from Dark Sided. 

It was a risk and reward play by the Drop Bears as it was a well known fact that Trill, who is OWL ready wanted to play in America if the opportunity arose. It was a move that looked like they were going to pull off, until a few days ago when the Dallas Fuel signed Trill to their academy team. With Trill gone the reward turned into a huge risk quickly, as it was rumoured that ckm, Hus and Punk only joined the Drop Bears to play alongside Trill. With an urgent need to pick up a Main Tank and having now acquired three players that may not want to stay and play for the Drop Bears, Face may have a task on his hands to defend his teams title. 


Order

With the Drop Bears releasing their roster and Dark Sided disbanding, Order have been the team who have made the biggest gains. Keeping Off-Tank Adam "Adam" Soong and Support player and captain Max "Unter" Unterwurzacher from their roster that finished third in season three, Order picked up three of the best players in the scene. Order's new DPS paring of James "Yuki" Stanton and Jordy "Jordation" Frish is an upgrade to their previous paring and one that will keep their opposition under pressure the entire season. They also picked up another of Australia's best Main Tanks in Sam "Quatz" Dennis who's well known for his ability to play Winston and Support player Nathaniel " Merit" Hawkins from Kanga to round off their line up.

After being in a bidding war with the Sydney Drop Bears to try and get the Blank line up, Order have strengthened their main area's of weakness and have made the step up to legitimate contender. Order have managed to keep coach Andrew "RQT" Haws and Team Manager Ben "Smash" Lehane from Overwatch League and North American Contenders teams, providing them with the best support staff in the scene. 


Blank Esport

In just a few short months, Blank have gone from being outright favourites to win Contenders Australia after they switched regions and dominated Open Trials, to struggling to find a roster that could keep them in contention. While they did manage to keep their Support pairing of Giorgio "Tongue" Lahdo and Sean "Kura" Kovacs, they lost three of their best players due to an a mixture of financial need and internal issues to the Sydney Drop Bears plus Off-Tank Daniel "HooWoo" McIntosh to University until 2019. 

With it being so close to the start of the new season, Blank have done a good job in filling out their roster in picking up DPS players Rowan "Roro" Goldsmith from Kanga and Mitchell "Tails" Burnett from Legacy Esports plus going with a tank line of Noah "Nozz" McClafferty from Masterminds at Off-Tank and Ex-Goats and Masterminds Main Tank Joshua "Knellery" Knell. While Blank may not be the out and out favourites, they're a team that will be very hard to beat if they come into the playoffs hot and I'd expect Roro to step up for Blank and lead from the front with the flexibility of his hero pool. While having the experience of Knellery, Kura and Tongue should help provide this new look Blank with the leadership some of the team will need.


Athletico   

Athletico have come into Overwatch this season after buying their Contenders spot from Masterminds and they have picked up a roster that contains a range of experience. They managed to get former Dark Sided DPS player Jake "Termo" Hickman out of retirement and paired him up with Ahmad "Usmc" Rahhal who was kept on from Masterminds. Their tank line might be one of the most underrated in Australia with Gabriel "Gob" Boylan from Order playing Main Tank and Marcus "xZoL" Jacob from Legacy at Off-Tank. This experience is going to be needed when look you look at the Athletico's Support line as George "Muni" Akritidis having only played previously for Blank Blue in season two and pro scene new comer Jasmine "Eevee" Scott who's playing in her first Contenders season.

While  Heist, Melbourne Mavericks and Kanga could all be this seasons dark horse. Athletico's old school experience and exciting prospects could easily finish top two in Group B and go on a playoff run from there. Termo will need to be the force he was known to be as Demoman during his TF2 days and lead this team to the playoffs and potential title.

This season will be the most competitive season that Contenders Australia will have and I think that it will also be the first season that won't end with a Sydney Drop Bears victory. Order have not only managed to keep the main core of their top four roster from season two but picked up some of the best and most successful players within the region. Blank will have to prove that their new line up will be able to live up to their teams reputation on short notice and so long as the inexperienced side of Athletico doesn't cost them games, then hey seem to be more than ready to be the dark horse this year. 

If one thing is for certain, the wild off season is going to provide more than enough regular season drama.

(You can find more Overwatch League and London Spitfire related content on Twitter @haloofthoughts)

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