The biggest uncertainty in 2017 ESL Pro League Season 17 is without a doubt Rooster. The team, which consists of three players from Australia and two from New Zealand, has played fewer than 25 maps in LANs tracked by HLTV. They are the second-youngest team at the event, behind Spirit, with an average age of 21.
Michael “chelleos” Hawkins, an AWPer and the team’s in-game captain, assembled the roster and is credited with creating the side as it stands today. Tyson “asap” Paterson joined chelleos and Akram “ADK” Smida, who had been playing together since 2018, to form the proto-Rooster in 2019, but it’s no accident that this is when the squad finally found success after years of player juggling.
Both ADK and asap received bans: the former from ESIC for wagering on European ESEA games, the latter from ESL on their advice for using phony identification to participate in a Red Bull Flick 2vs2 event while underage. Their return, along with that of Corey “nettik” Browne, who was also banned for betting on ESEA games outside of his region but is now one of the area’s hottest up-and-comers, was the eagerly anticipated homecoming.
Most of the players have little international experience outside local LAN parties and regional online tournaments, so traveling to Malta to compete in the ESL Pro League will be an immersion into top-tier play that few teams in their situation will ever get to experience. Chelleos and his team attended a three-week bootcamp in Katowice to get ready. The determined young people, who are still unpaid, paid for the trip out of their own pockets with a kind of selfless commitment akin to the Brazilian Luminosity team that made a name for itself in 2015.
The squad learned a lot during the three-week bootcamp and had the opportunity to compete against elite European teams, but it also gave them a better understanding of where they stand outside of the server. When questioned about what it’s like to live together for three weeks while training for the tournament, Chelleos responds, “Some might be willing to make sacrifices, some might not be, that’s kind of what I’ve kind of figured from this bootcamp,” before lightening the atmosphere with a joke. “It’s crazy that people are stealing people’s socks and other things.”
The long-term objectives are what Chelleos believes his team will achieve in the next year or two, along with experiences. The 22-year-old is certain that his team has what it takes to post a win, but the more immediate objective in Malta will be to develop and earn some confidence if they perform well. The time to make a name for oneself is now, according to chelleos, who enjoys watching demos the way one would study literature.
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