New high performance training centre will change the game for esports players

Oceania's 'League of Legends' champions have moved into one of Australia's most iconic sports venues, the Sydney Cricket Ground.
Image: Charlie Drayton (SCGT media)

Oceania’s esports industry just took a huge step forward.

Australia has opened its very first Esports High Performance Centre in Sydney, a new home base for Oceania’s leading League of Legends team, the LG Dire Wolves.

Established in Sydney’s city sporting precinct, sitting in the side of Allianz Stadium looking towards the Sydney Cricket Ground, the facility aims to drive growth and development in Australia’s esports industry.

The facility will be stocked with new technology in eye-tracking and performance analysis, as part of a partnership with the University of Technology Sydney.

The Dire Wolves, alongside Australia’s leading mixed-gender Counter-Strike team, Supa-Stellar, will train and develop surrounded by some of Sydney’s traditional sports teams, also residents of the precinct, including the Sydney Swans, Sydney Sixers, Sydney Roosters, Sydney FC, Cricket NSW, and the NSW Waratahs. 

Image: Charlie Drayton (SCGT media)

Daniel Ringland, Head of Esports at Riot Games Oceania, sees the facility as “one of a kind” in the region, noting that until now, some League of Legends teams have been tapping into traditional sporting organisation training facilities. 

“Our OPL (Oceanic Pro League) teams have all grown a lot in the last past 12 months, but as far as dedicated training facilities like this, no other teams in the region have anything that comes close,” he said. “It’s really the first time that an esports team has partnered up with a traditional sporting body such as the SCG.”

Plus, sharing is caring. International and domestic teams are invited to work with the facility and its technology too, when visiting the city. 

“As far as dedicated training facilities like this, no other teams in the region have anything that comes close.”

Already booked in as a temporary type resident is the country’s leading mixed-gender Counter-Strike team, Supa-Stellar, who will use the facility for boot camp-like training and development.

LG Dire Wolves owner, David Harris, sees the facility as a means for Australia to increase its globally competitive position in the esports space, and also foster budding talent. 

“We’d like to think this is similar to the Australian Institute of Sport, which gave the region an edge for an extended period,” he said. 

It’s not how much you train, it’s how

“One of the benefits that’s going to come out of the facility is not in so much how much they train, but more in how they train,” Ringland said. “So, a lot of esports players train lots, whereas a lot of the new OPL team owners thought, ‘You guys are actually training too much. There could be more efficient ways to learn and develop.'”

The Dire Wolves pre-season will start on Jan. 7, and Harris wants to get the team using the centre’s facilities — including some serious gear.

“Between now and then, we’ll make sure it’s fully kitted out with state of the art technology. We’ve worked closely with the University of Technology Sydney, their sports science department … to make sure this is a world-leading facility,” Harris said.

UTS is working on programs and technology for the facility, measuring mental aspects of sport like preparedness to train and fatigue, and how to manage both. 

“Our whole philosophy was to apply the traditional sports model to esports as both a performance and business model,” Harris said, explaining that a chief strategy is to measure the mental aspects of esports like preparedness to train and fatigue, with the same seriousness as traditional sport.

“On the technology front, we’re looking at using things like eye-trackers, technology that records APM, which is actions per minute, another metric they use.”

Ringland agrees, seeing a potential snowball effect in effective training. “Hopefully, the knock-on effect will be that the competition level of the entire OPL will increase, and if that happens, it would stand to reason that our performance on the international stage should also increase.” 

So, where’s Australian esports at?

Australia’s competitive presence on the international scene is developing, with the LG Dire Wolves becoming the first Australian team to compete at the League of Legends world championships in Beijing’s Olympic Stadium earlier in 2017. But it hasn’t been a cakewalk.

“To date, we’ve struggled,” Ringland said. “Traditionally, when our teams have ventured internationally, they haven’t lasted very long and they’ve been knocked out in tournaments relatively early on. One of the reasons for that is Australia is isolated geographically, and what it means is that our pro teams and pro players have a much smaller pool of talent to compete against.”

The World Championships Final of ‘League of Legends’ at the National Stadium ‘Bird’s Nest’ in Beijing on Nov. 4, 2017.

Image: STR/AFP/Getty Images

Australian teams must fly to countries like the UK, South Korea, and China to compete with more than the local circuit, which is a costly exercise.

“It’s hard for Australia to compete on the international stage at the moment, because of our isolation, and we are a few years behind in esports,” Harris added. 

The ‘League of Legends’ Oceanic Pro League Grand Final at Luna Park on Aug. 8, 2015 in Sydney, Australia.

Image: Ashley Feder/Getty Images

Developing a supportive infrastructure and training centres like the new Sydney facility, however, would foster a strong base population and subsequently raise the bar for Australia’s players, pros and newbies alike.

“The more younger players that come into the ecosystem, aspiring to be a pro player, the better,” Ringland said. “The bigger the base of grassroots, the higher the talent will be at the top.”

Sydney’s not the only Australian city looking to further the esports foothold in the country. Australian pro organisation Legacy Esports is looking to work with Adelaide Football Club to establish a high performance centre at its West Lakes headquarters.

The OPL returns for its 2018 season on Jan 22. and runs through to early September, with the winning team heading over to compete in the world championships. 

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