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The Land Down Under - Australian Counter-Strike

Updated: Feb 15, 2019


Luke ”Havoc” Paton and Chad ”SPUNJ” Burchill celebrating a victory (Courtesy of website ESPORT AFTONBLADET)

The importance of esports athletes has long been criticized by those in Australia; thought of as a nerdy single thirty-year-old male still living at home with acne. This is no longer the case. In today’s age, Counter-Strike players such as Justin “jks” Savage and Aaron “AZR” Ward have shown the world that Aussie CS is existent, and can only go up from here. In their commonly recognized role as the underdog at most tournaments they attend, the Renegades (ironically based out of Detroit), have shown the world that, although inconsistent, they can compete with the world’s very best.


As we are approaching IEM Sydney and with the start of the IEM Katowice Major (the first of 2019), a summary of the history, present, and future of Australian (AU) Counter-Strike is a necessity, especially considering the fact that, for the first time in several years, the region once again has two AU teams at the Valve sponsored Major tournament - something that is suggestive of the region’s near future.


The first team to ever make it to a Major was Vox Eminor at ESL One: Cologne 2014. This team was a professional AU gaming organization which was founded in late 2010. They were the first to put AU on the map globally in the CS world. This major line-up consisted of Chad “SPUNJ” Burchill, AZR, Luke “Havoc” Paton, Iain “SnypeR” Turner and Azad “topguN” Orami. At the time, these were the greatest players to come out of Australia. This team would unsurprisingly place 13th to 16th at the tournament, due to AU being behind every other region in the world and a lack of game knowledge and the youth of the gaming industry in Australia. The reason I say unsurprisingly is because Australia has always been a country that has been behind compared to the rest of the world. We were one of the last people to jump on the CS:GO bandwagon and even when we did we failed to recognize how big of a scene it would grow into.


To give a bit of slight context, if you, the reader, even care, when I was a child, I was told to play less video games and get out more, as the older generation was just that: old. They were unaware of the future social and economic growth of the global esports scene. This is easier said in hindsight. However, when I was 5, I played Counter-Strike: Source for the very first time. Introduced to it by my older cousin, essentially my older brother, and this is how and why the majority of CS:GO pros become pros. They start young and develop throughout the years. Their reflexes soon become like that of no other normal person.


The issue with Australia back in that day and age is that gamers were seen to be just nerds with a lust for gaming. To this very day, Australia cannot see gaming as an important or even slightly beneficial part of our society. This is very evident with the media covering video games as if they are the bane of our existence. Yet, when I look back on my childhood, I wish I played CS more. I wish I developed that type of skills that pros possess. I do not regret anything, but if I could redo my life, I would make the most of every moment gaming.


Excuse me for my tangent, but the fact is that Australia’s esports scene is still very undeveloped. People still do not see the kind of economic, social and political growth that esports can have on our nation for the youth of the future. This is the difference when you compare NA with AU. Subsequently, as the Renegades recently traversed past the NA AWPer and in-game leader, Noah “Nifty” Francis era of play, they are in a never before seen era.


Renegades latest lineup featuring Sean "Gratisfaction" Kaiwai and Jay "Liazz" Tregillgas (Courtesy of Liquipedia/IEM)

On the 27th of September, Nifty would leave to join former French-team Team Envy and long-time companion of AZR and jks, Karlo “USTILO” Pivac, would be benched. Ultimately, this was a move that would make way for much younger and a different generation of players - players that could shake up the Renegades mix and could potentially push them into the New Legends, or even Champions Stage of the Major.


The two players to be brought into the team was one of the best and youngest players Australia had to offer. This player was Jay “Liazz” Tregillgas. He would be quoted as being “the next up and coming prodigy of AU”, similar to the mythos surrounding jks’ uprising. The 21-year old would take some time to come into his own as he was often sharing the same roles as jks. To this day, Liazz remains a reliable clutch player, but one that has not yet found his true place in the team. This is to be determined. New Zealand AWPer, Sean “Gratisfaction” Kaiwai, replaced the “fifty-nifty” (IEM Sydney highlight) star of IEM Sydney 2018. Gratisfaction would have a far better time fitting into the team, as he could be seen competing against the very best on the greatest stages of them all - the IEM Katowice 2019 Major.



The young prodigy Justin "jks" Savage (Courtesy of Liquipedia/Starseries)

These two pieces would take several months to actually mold into the team dynamics and to establish a new identity and culture. During this time, the Renegades would achieve the following results:


5th to 8th at StarSeries & i-League CS:GO Season 6

13-16th at IEM XIII – Chicago

2nd at ECS S6 NA (Online League)

5th at ESL Pro League S8 NA (Online League)

2nd at Asia Minor Championship Katowice 2019: OCE closed qualifier

3-4th at Toyota Master CS:GO Bangkok 2018

5-6th at ESL Pro League S8 Finals

1st at Asia Minor Championship Katowice 2019


This series of events would be a tumultuous series of results for a team that was still developing. They would surprise everyone with quarter-finals appearances at ESL Pro League S8 and StarSeries and i-League S6. The new Renegades were a very up and down team that could never quite found their footing. However, when they did do so, they were unlike any other previous line up. Everyone would contribute and every single team-member would have their fair share of incredible highlights and coherent teamwork.


As I am writing this, the Renegades are just one game away from making the new legends stage. The fact that the Aussie Renegades were able to beat CIS team AVANGAR (16-8) and most importantly NIP (16-13), shows that they are not willing to bow down to no man, that there is room at the top of the scene for an Australian team/mix (Norway and NZ). In their last 7 Majors, Renegades have failed to make it to the top 16 at every single occasion. Is this the first time that they conqueror their inner demons and make history?


Even though 2 rounds of the Major Stages have been played, AZR currently has a 1.52 rating (2.0) - the 3rd highest of the Major. He was the one to pick up the difficult role of IGL following Nifty’s departure. This shows that he can both frag-out and still lead his team to victory.

That question lies in the next game of this current stage of Katowice. They play the Finnish Organization ENCE in a Best-of-Three to decide their fate. Even if they do lose against ENCE, they will still have two more opportunities to make AU and OCE proud. Therefore, the answer to this question is not if ENCE will lose. Instead, it is if the Renegades can finally persist and persevere into a stage that no other Australian team has ever done before since SPUNJ’s Vox Eminor. In doing so, only the Renegades can, “Advance Australia Fair” – Line 8 of the Australian national anthem.


The other Australian team in the Katowice major is Grayhound Gaming, currently considered the best AU/OCE team in the scene. According to Liquipedia, the team is “hosting the globally renown big DickStacy, an even bigger Mongolian, a comparatively smaller New Zealander and 2 shrimps on the barbie”. The current iteration of the lineup consists of Erdenetsogt "erkaSt" Gantulga (the Mongolian), Chris “dexter” Nong, Oliver “DickStacy” Tierney, Liam “malta” Schembri and Euan “sterling” Moore. This team was the only one to take a map off of Renegades at the Katowice Minor in the Grand Final qualifier. They are possibly the only other AU team that can compete at the top level after previously shockingly defeating former-Brazilian team SK Gaming at IEM Sydney 2018. Grayhound’s recent additions of malta and sterling during the OCE shuffle pushed Grayhound over the edge and into the Major for the very first time. At Katowice, they are currently on the polar opposite side of their country-rivals as they are currently one game away from elimination from the New Challengers stage of the Major, having to face fnatic to keep their chances alive for just another day. They will need to reverse-sweep to make it to the next stage. The exact same thing Cloud-9 (Boston Major winners) did just two Majors ago.


In a traditional article, I could use several reasons such as poor internet connection and the small population of people in Australia, but these are simply scapegoats that are not acceptable. Denmark, one of the greatest CS nations in the world, has just a population of 5.77 million compared to Australia’s 24.6 million people. This means that it is not an issue of size, but culture. In today’s day and age, Australia is just not ready to succeed until a culture shift occurs. One in which we no longer strictly prioritize high statistics and become more aware of the teamwork required in such a team-orientated game. Secondly, in your everyday game, it is apparent that there is a generation of old CS:S and 1.6 players who are stuck in their way, not accepting new metas or changes. Even today, whenever I purchase the AUG or SG 553, I get called a “CoD noob”, even though factually speaking the AUG and SG were in Counter-Strike 1.6 before Call of Duty was ever even released. The fact that this stereotype exists around strictly sticking to the traditionally used M4 and AK is just one of the contributing factors to a culture of failure in Counter-Strike. One that Renegades and Grayhound are attempting to change and amend. Ultimately, showing the best of the best that we know how to play this all-so-loved game of Counter-Strike. One step… or one scope at a time. Only then will we ever win a Counter-Strike Major and be capable of developing our next young generation of CS talent to a point in which they become the next Mathieu “ZywOo” Herbaut or Jere “sergej” Salo. I mean, the internet could still play a part, but we have to know that the game of CS is arguably the most complex esport out there to master.


Australian teams will always be the underdogs in all word competitions. No matter the context people always under rate us due to the youth of our nation. This is why I revel so much in the Renegades finally winning. Mainly because it is about damn time an Aussie team finally delivered at the Major. In the present, I am hoping for my sanity that they finally triumph. Do it for Australia, Norway and New Zealand. Do it for the boys.


In the future, I only wish that Australians understand that esport is a reasonable industry and one in which they can sustain their livelihood. I am not telling all teenage gamers to give up on their dreams, but the fact that there still is a stereotype about gaming being damaging is extremely harmful to our society. Gaming is the present and the future. Whether you like it or not, the influence of the gaming industry can only bring more jobs into Australia. It will also bring the biggest multi-billion dollar industry since the very invention of the computer chip. The day that esports is commonly accepted in Australia as another past-time, is the day in which I can die a happy man.


Aaron “AZR” Ward and Jay "Liazz" Tregillgas hyped (Photo courtesy of ESL)

Written by William “Willy2k” Egerton

Update: This article was written before the third round of the New Challengers stage of the Major. And the Renegades for the first time in history have made it to the New Legends Stage 3-0. Unfortunately, Grayhound gaming have been eliminated 0-3 and will have to re-qualify for the next Major of the year through the Minor system.