Australian Counter-Strike Is Quietly Having A Good Run

Given that there aren't any Australian teams participating in the Counter-Strike: Global Offensive major at MLG Columbus right now, it's quite simple for our country and our players within to be ignored.

But, and don't say it too loudly, things have been looking a lot better over the last month.

At the start of the year, the situation couldn't have been worse. Australia had two representatives at the IEM Taipei qualifier, and they were both favoured going in. The rewards were significant: apart from the US$45,000 split between the winners and the runners-up, the top two teams would also get tickets to a qualifier for the MLG Columbus major and, for the winner, entry into the US$250,000 tournament at IEM Katowice.

Things were looking even more in Australia's favour after one of the more fancied opponents, the Chinese team Tyloo, were disqualified on the eve of the tournament. One of their players had a previous VAC ban, it was discovered, and as a result the whole team were kicked out of the tournament.

Naturally, things went completely pear-shaped. Both Australian teams were summarily upset, in the group stages and single elimination bracket by the team from Mongolia. If that wasn't upsetting enough, the fallout that ensued saw a string of roster changes amongst the top Australian teams.

Renegades, the Australians who moved to the United States to follow their dream, started the chain of dominoes by kicking one of the team's founding members, Luke "Havoc" Paton. To fill the void, Renegades poached Team Immunity's Karlo "USTILO" Pivac. And not long after Pivac hopped on a plane to the US, Ryan "zewsy" Palmer and Mohammed "MoeycQ" Tizani joined Immunity.

To mix things up further, Paton went and cannibalised two other teams -- Legacy Esports and Chiefs -- to form a new squad. It's officially under the wing of Legacy Esports now, although its formation hasn't resulted in a demolition of Australian Counter-Strike. They're close to the top, mind you, finishing within the top 4 of the Cybergamer Autumn Professional event and putting up some respectable performances at the DreamHack Masters Malmö Asian Qualifier a month ago.

And since January's Great Roster Re-Shuffle, performances for Australian teams have been pretty respectable across the board. The public pressure on Renegades to make a roster change last year was immense, given their continued penchant for underperforming. But they kicked off the third season of ESL Pro League with three wins from their first four matches, and they've managed to stay in the playoff berths after eight weeks of matches.

They're not the only Australian team to enjoy a small resurgence. Following their nearly flawless effort in the round robin qualifiers late last year, Immunity found themselves spending a week competing in the Dreamhack Malmo and Counter Pit Season finals.

They exited the latter tournament in the first round after finding themselves in a rematch against Virtus.Pro, the Polish team who beat them in the finals of Melbourne's Crown Invitational late last year. Their losses were respectable, however, and they came off the back of the Malmo qualifier where Immunity reached the semi-finals.

It has to be said that the qualifier wasn't dripping with top tier European, or even North American talent, but it was the kind of results Australian teams should be putting up on a regular basis.

Immunity's set to get some more international experience soon as well. The team was recently banned from all Cybergamer leagues and events for a single season after they withdrew from the offline finals of the third-party site's Professional League without providing "a valid reason or an acceptable amount of notice to come to a compromise with us".

It's since been revealed that the team did so because they were approached by organisers for the World Cyber Arena. It's not known precisely how much will be on offer at the WCA's event, although it's known that the WCA world finals later this year will have a prize pool of roughly US$200,000 for CS:GO alone.

The ban is unfortunate, although understandable. And as far as Immunity's concerned, it's something they are -- and should -- more than happy to cop. Apart from another international tournament, it's increased exposure into China, a region that has been vastly expanding its CS:GO footprint over the last 12 months.

It's also worth noting that Immunity weren't the only ones forwarded this opportunity, with Legacy's Chris "ofnu" Hanley revealing that the WCA organisers approached them as well. "The WCA admins only approached us/Immunity a few days ago," Hanley wrote. "Immunity made the right decision considering their time spent together [and] clearly having enough funding."

With the third season of the ESL Pro League is coming to an end, and Renegades also booked to play in at least the first season of Turner Broadcasting's televised ELEAGUE, Australia's having a quiet little run to be proud of. It's not as good as a podium finish at a major or an upset against one of the best European teams in the world, but it's the kind of run that teams usually string together before bigger results start to emerge.


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