Since the League of Legends offseason began last November, the Oceanic Pro League has undergone significant changes. Riot Games Oceania’s decision to remove team operating subsidies and minimum salary requirements for players prompted a rethink at numerous levels.
The following December and January saw an exodus of Oceanic talent from the domestic region. Players, coaches, and analysts sought better opportunities, pay, and infrastructure; perhaps Mitchell “Destiny” Shaw‘s move to LEC side Origen is the best example. Among the shifting seas, West Australian internet service provider Pentanet saw an opportunity to take on the OPL spot formerly held by Essendon Football Club’s Bombers.
Under its esports brand Pentanet.GG, the company is looking to make a name for itself in the OPL and the wider Australian esports scene. Pete Curulli, General Manager of Pentanet.GG found some time to chat with Esports Insider about the organisation’s goals in the industry, its entry into the league, and finding the right people.
Esports Insider: Would you be able to tell us a bit about yourself and what brought Pentanet into esports as Pentanet.GG?
Pete Curulli: I’m a career content guy. 15 years in commercial FM radio, bouncing around the country, now back in my home town of Perth and currently the anchor and co-host for the Xavier, Juelz, and Pete show on Hit 929. Four years ago I started a games and esports media company called Game On AUS which has since grown to become the #1 podcast in Australian games (QANTAS international and domestic, Jetstar, Triple M network, PodcastOne, Spotify).
Through that, we’ve built a full exec and content team, partnered Twitch channel, weekly shows, stream team, reviews team, communities – full tilt. It was through my work there that Stephen Cornish, Managing Director of Pentanet, found me. He pulled me aside almost a year ago now and told me about his love for esports and his idea for a Western Australian product that can lift the standards by bringing good corporate practices to passionate esports fans. After months of groundwork, out of it came Pentanet.GG and I accepted the role of General Manager. Pentanet.GG is Pentanet’s esports brand and is our vehicle to give Western Australian gamers professional pathway opportunities.
“We were well prepared for the challenge given our research into the space.”
ESI: What was the process of joining the OPL like? From taking over the Bombers’ spot, through to the roster announcement.
PC: Riot Games and the Bombers made it seamless, it was a very comfortable and well-supported transition. For us, when the opportunity came up to purchase the league spot, it was a no-brainer. Our remit at Pentanet.GG is to create that genuine professional pathway, and the OPL spot gives us one of many ends to our means. Though it’s been a steep learning curve, we’d already done a fair bit of work and research into OPL teams and running one in the event an opportunity like this came up, so we were well prepared.
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However, with the Bombers spot came Nathan Mathews-Mallia, the former head of esports who has been instrumental in actioning our OPL plan, including drawing Scott “Westonway” Farmer into our organisation as head coach, and managing the acquisition of a strong and competitive roster.
ESI: Many of us are mindful of Riot Games’ changes to the OPL around player salaries and the operating subsidy. How did you take that in your stride, and were there any other big challenges?
PC: We were well prepared for the challenge given our research into the space, however year one for Pentanet.GG coinciding with the debut of the changes means we have nothing to compare it to, so the current state of the OPL is the only reality we have ever known.
“Success is seeing our colours represented well in our inaugural year by a good group of players and management.”
ESI: Aside from OPL success, are there any other big goals for yourself and Pentanet.GG in 2020?
PC: Being our first year, OPL success means something a little different for me. Success is seeing our colours represented well in our inaugural year by a good group of players and management, and getting to the end of 2020 ironing out all the kinks of owning an OPL slot for the first time. We have an incredibly hard-working team on the ground in Sydney as well as in Perth, and right now the only result I’m looking for is great team chemistry in the rift and out of it, and for all of us across the organisation to bring a hard-working attitude every single day.
The slot is one cog in a very big machine, we have a long path ahead of us if we’re to successfully execute Pentanet.GG’s overall strategy, which is why we’re happy to take things slow, make mistakes, learn from them, and improve. There are a lot of great organisations doing amazing work in Australian esports already, and we’re here to help and support that work nationally while we build out Perth’s scene. Our biggest competitor right now is ourselves, and I look forward to revisiting this with you in a year’s time.