Developing in isolation: The story of Australian CS:GO
Every Counter-Strike scene develops in its own way. But being so far away from any other region results in unique difficulties and makes Australian CS worthy of a deeper look.
A flight from Sydney to Los Angeles lasts about 14 hours. Flying from Australia to Europe takes upwards of 20 hours, and, depending on the final destination, can easily take close to thirty. Yes, everyone knows that Australia is far away from "the west", but the country is also so huge that internal flights can last over four hours. The size of Australia caused troubles back in the day of CS 1.6 and Source, resulting in each state having its own scene — due to ping issues and the costs of attending LANs on the other side of the country.
As internet improved, state-based teams and qualifiers got out of fashion, and New Zealanders were able to join the scene, fully integrating and accepting the 'Australian CS' tag. A sense of locality lingered, but only for a bit, as the scene started to become homogeneous.
This brings us to the beginning of CS:GO, my starting point as I delve into Counter-Strike Down Under.
You gotta get out, go far away
"We went to Jönköping, Sweden, which people don't really know, but is in the middle of nowhere, and we were staying in a farmhouse that was an hour away from the venue. We had to hire a car and drive an hour back and forth every day to go to this event. We hired PCs in Jönköping because you had to play in the BYOC, and the owner of our team thought it would be a good experience for us, so he put is in the main hall of DreamHack Winter. And I don't know if people at home know this, but the main hall of DreamHack Winter is... a rave. We couldn't hear each other during matches because it was so loud, people were standing up on their desks, raving on... it was mental." - Chad "SPUNJ" Burchill about his DreamHack Winter 2013 BYOC experience.
A short outtake from a conversation with SPUNJ, who recalled his first European CS:GO event, is enough to grasp how different the scene was just five years ago. Even the best of the best at the time, Ninjas in Pyjamas and VeryGames, didn't have anything near what is considered standard now: generous salaries, five-star hotels, tournament organizer-covered flights and 24/7 available practice rooms. Below the elite were dozens of European and North American teams that were playing for no salary, but at least they got a chance to compete against the best through open leagues, cups, and qualifiers. However, if you were a team outside of the two main regions, there was practically no way to get into the competitive circuit.
MSI Beat It! was held in November of 2013 and was the first event that promised to pit top European teams against Asian ones, with one slot being reserved for Oceania as well. "The Australian scene was pretty small back then, there was maybe a LAN every six months and that was the thing you wanted to go to", Aaron "AZR" Ward remembers. "So when we got the announcement for the MSI Beat It! qualifier we were ecstatic, we knew we had to make it to that competition". And they — Vox Eminor comprising SPUNJ, AZR, Iain "SnypeR" Turner, Azad "topguN" Orami and Luke "Havoc" Paton — did make it, and then impressed at the tournament in China by outclassing Asian opposition, placing fourth and only losing to respectable European sides: VeryGames, fnatic and SK.
With no invites to tournaments or upcoming qualifiers in sight, Vox Eminor's result at MSI Beat It! would've meant nothing in the long term, but the team's owner, Talnoy, was confident enough in the team to go for the massive risk. He gathered the funds and sent the team to the BYOC qualifier for the first CS:GO Major, DreamHack Winter 2013. So just a week after they had been in China, a team consisting of a student, three blue-collar workers, and an IT professional, was off to Sweden to fight for a spot at the biggest CS:GO event yet.
Even though they weren't able to claim one of the two spots leading to the Major, as they lost to Xapso in the quarter-finals of the BYOC, Vox Eminor's top-eight finish, combined with the top four at MSI, saw them accomplish something perhaps even greater: putting Australia on the map. Starting with the next Major, EMS One Katowice 2014, Australia had a pathway into the Major circuit, something for which regions such as South America and Asia had to wait another year.
"I know that Valve wanted to make Counter-Strike as global as possible, so us being put on the radar I think was a good target for them, a demographic from that region. And we were the best team from that region, we had beaten all of the Asian teams at MSI Beat It. I think that is why we were considered. At one point we also got to meet the Valve employees, talk to them, help them test the servers and stuff, we had a really good rapport and relationship, and we were also entertaining, which I think helped our case as well." - SPUNJ
Vox Eminor attended the Katowice 2014 Major as an invited team and earned a spot through the Oceanic qualifier at the following one, which took place in Cologne, but SPUNJ and co. didn't blow anyone's mind with their displays at the Majors that year, finishing 13-16th both times. The way these tournaments were set up back then saw Vox Eminor play just four maps against international opposition, which isn't enough for a team to improve significantly. It was, however, enough to give them an edge back home, something they didn't want to give away easily.
"There are a couple of factors to consider, especially with CS at the time. All Australian teams were playing for one spot at international events and our team had the most experience. Teams would be upset that we wouldn't practice them, but we didn't feel the need to practice them because we would beat them whenever we played them. We didn't want to give away anything that we learned, we didn't want to give them any advantages when we knew that we had to play them, a lot of the time in online qualifiers, for one spot at a LAN. We wanted to make sure we were ahead of the curve in that regard." - SPUNJ
That approach worked for some time, as Vox Eminor established themselves as the best Australian team and got invited to the LAN qualifier for ESL One Katowice 2015, from which they made it to their third Major. The Aussies managed a Major victory this time around to finish 9-12th, but what won over the hearts of a lot of fans were the POV+TeamSpeak VODs of the matches they played. They stood out with their fired up, sometimes even cocky attitude, but at the same time they were laid-back and lighthearted — a weird combination not unique to the Vox Eminor squad, but shared among many Australian players who have followed in their footsteps.
Throughout 2014, Vox Eminor overshadowed their direct domestic rival Immunity, a team created by former Vox member SnypeR after he was replaced by rising star Justin "jks" Savage. But things started to change after Katowice 2015. Despite Vox Eminor picking up Immunity's standout player Yaman "yam" Ergenekon to replace topguN, the underdogs managed to beat out SPUNJ's team in the first intercontinental league that had an Oceanic division — FACEIT League Stage 1 — and qualify for an overseas event. In the end, Immunity managed to tie three events together in their first Euro trip, attending the DreamHack Tours 2015 BYOC and Gfinity Summer Masters as well. The results weren't impressive, but the experience gained was massive, especially for the likes of Ricardo "Rickeh" Mulholland and Karlo "USTILO" Pivac.
I had a dream, Joe
Despite the likes of FACEIT, Gfinity and Counter Pit taking note of Oceania and offering avenues for teams from the region to get to more overseas LANs, in the first half of 2015 Vox Eminor was set on leaving their home country, with a limiting practice environment one of the main reasons. An impressive run at Gfinity Spring Masters 2, where they beat Liquid 2-0 and played out 1-1 stalemates with fnatic and Ninjas in Pyjamas, raised some eyebrows:
"Originally, we got an offer from Liquid and we were getting really close to signing with them, but then MonteCristo from Renegades came out of nowhere and he was like: "Boys, I want you - here's the money". So we went with Renegades, that was our first pro team." - AZR
With exquisite clutching, jks quickly established himself as the best Aussie player, holding the title to this day
Making their new home North America was something that came naturally, as it suited both them and any organization that would want to sign them. But even though it was the logical move, the decision was not one made easily. The cultural change is significant, as is the duration of the flight that separates players from families back home.
"We wanted to chase the dream of being professional CS players, and to do that we had to make big sacrifices. If you ask any of the players on that team now if they would rather live in the USA or in their beautiful home country of Australia, with sunny beaches and beautiful weather every day of the week, they would 110% pick Australia, without a doubt. That's just a sacrifice we made." - SPUNJ
With Vox Eminor becoming Renegades and departing Australia, Immunity, who had already started beating SPUNJ and co., became the no. 1 team in the country. In 2015, SnypeR's crew went on to attend their first Major, ESL One Cologne 2015, played the LAN qualifier for DreamHack Cluj-Napoca, and impressed at the first international tournament held in Australia — Crown Invitational. Immunity beat Renegades and Cloud9 at that event, placing second to Virtus.pro.
Things were looking up for Immunity towards the end of 2015, their tactical, structured style was working out, only for the team to dissolve six months into the next year. It started unraveling in January when the team was upset by Chiefs in the Oceanic Minor Qualifier. "We had got so tunnel-visioned on beating Europeans and North Americans", SnypeR admits. "When it came to versing everyone else in Australia we thought we would just win". After that, he says, the team put in more time in preparation for domestic opponents, which paid off as they qualified for Counter Pit Season 2, but the squad still decided to move him to a coaching position and find a new player before the LAN event.
"Everyone seems to have this problem with the way I was in-game-leading, even though we would constantly win, yam and JAMES wanted to take over calling in Immunity. But you got to remember that this was during the fnatic era, fnatic and EnVyUs are just going around and doing two-man pug strats, so the team had this ethos, 'Can we stop playing so structured, it's actually hurting us? Can we start pugging a bit because we are the best in Australia?'. I didn't really want to do that." - SnypeR
The idea of coaching Immunity didn't appeal to SnypeR, who slowly pulled out of the competitive scene. That left both his team and the Australian scene without a classic, tactical in-game-leader, something it would end up not having for years to come, with a simplistic approach being the way to go instead. Unfortunately for Immunity, shortly after they had parted ways with SnypeR, USTILO got the kind of offer one can't refuse from Renegades, leaving the team with just three players.
The holes on Immunity's roster were filled by Mohammed "MoeycQ" Tizani and Ryan "zewsy" Palmer, but the team didn't stick around for long. "Pretty much the whole way through Immunity we were a farming academy for Renegades", Chris "emagine" Rowlands, who saw a number of his teammates leave, recalls. "As soon as Renegades became unhappy with a player on their team, they straight went to our team and picked someone up". The vicious cycle repeated itself again and again, and there was little Immunity, a team with no salary, stuck in Australia, could do to stop it. The only option they saw was to follow in Renegades' footsteps and make a team that would move to North America.
"When Winterfox came about it was me, zewsy and ofnu who were part of the Immunity core, I think the last tournament we went to was WCA 2016, and then our contracts expired. We joined forces with dexter and we were recommended to get ap0c as well. Then we just approached a bunch of North American organizations. Our logic was - if we get to NA, maybe we won't have this cyclic thing with the team, maybe we can make a standalone team that won't get poached consistently. Winterfox was interested and we were happy to go over. That was our first salaried team, so it was a big deal." - emagine
I have no voice if I don't speak my mind
In a short period of time, Australia was left without a good portion of its Counter-Strike talent, but it wasn't the first time it had happened. As Global Offensive was taking over from CS 1.6 and Source, a number of big names with international experience didn't make the switch, didn't stay to pass on the knowledge. SPUNJ noted Australia's three most influential cores from the old versions of the game:
"The first one has to be Function Zer0, as you move a little bit forward, maybe towards the tail end of 1.6, everyone was looking towards team Immunity with BenoR, gazR, those kinds of guys. And then you have to look towards the Source stuff and credit guys like Boomser, Tegs, TopguN , they were my teammates when I was in CGS." - SPUNJ
Having guidance of veterans who had played at international events such as ESWC, WCG and CGS would've been valuable to the new wave of players in Global Offensive, as it had been to a young SPUNJ breaking out in CGS: "Boomser was my IGL when I was in Sydney Underground, and in terms of being a character in the scene, he was always a very big personality. He was a winner, he was bringing the Ws, but what I learned for him is that there is more to it than just playing the game".
With the majority of the veterans no longer around (the likes of Fergus "ferg" Stephenson and Mark "deStiny" Kagan being the exceptions) and a crop of talented players out of the picture, the competition in Australia was at a low point in the second half of 2016. The scene had come to a point where there was no obvious big dog but a bunch of young, hungry teams vying for titles. The growth in terms of tournaments continued, though, as ESL became more involved in the region. Basing their operations in Sydney, where a broadcasting studio with capabilities to host LAN finals was built, ESL Australia was pushing the envelope with products such as the ESL AU&NZ Championship and the ZEN League. The latter event didn't live up to the ambitious plan fully but was still a significant step in bringing together the Australian and Asian scenes.
Christopher "dexter" Nong, who was the first Winterfox player to return to Australia, noticed that ESL had upped the game in terms of hospitality, flights, and accommodation, making it easier for the players: "It was more professional, and it felt like players responded by being more professional as well. It all grew up from there," he said.
Making the most out of the lack of top players in Australia were Athletico, who were considered the best team in the country in the second part of 2016, with a new Immunity lineup and Chiefs being the main challengers.
Bring it on home
The announcement of IEM Sydney in March 2017 made waves throughout the scene as it would be the first premier CS event to take place in Australia, and it also had a slot for a domestic team. That prompted local organizations such as Chiefs and Tainted Minds — who picked up Athletico — to raise the bar and secure salaries for their players, starting a new phase for Australian CS:GO. Having an IEM held in Australia opened up new sponsorship opportunities, but it was also the overflow of money from OPL, the Oceanic League of Legends league, that allowed multi-gaming organizations to support their CS:GO squads more.
Athletico went into the IEM Sydney qualifier as favorites, but Chiefs were able to upset them in the final and secure the LAN spot. The core of Chiefs had been together for 10 months, but they were fresh off a roster change, and the leadership had switched to the divisive Tyler "tucks" Reilly, whose eligibility to play was confirmed shortly before the qualifier, as ESL revisited its VAC ban rules. "Randomly, one day, they said that when it's two years past your VAC ban you are fine" tucks said while remembering the long and stressful back-and-forth conversations he had with ESL admins. "That is my career, ESL saved my career".
IEM Sydney took place in May, and there a dominating victory over the country's best team, Renegades, and a T-side comeback on Nuke against North (ranked 5th in the world at the time) got Chiefs to the brink of playoffs and earned them a number of new fans, but, more importantly, showed that Australian teams, even ones with limited international experience, could compete: "We realized we could be better. I know that last year, all of the players on our team realized we can beat these international teams", the team's in-game-leader recalls.
He is not a caller by vocation, but that didn't stop tucks from providing guidance at a time when there were few veteran figures to look up to, bringing up a new crop of players — who have since been picked off by other teams higher in the food chain. On the surface, his path is reminiscent of those of Nicolai "HUNDEN" Petersen and Andrey "B1ad3" Gorodenskiy; however, stylistically, tucks is not a low-fragging, highly-tactical in-game-leader. Despite his young age and limited tenure in CS, tucks oozes confidence in a classic Aussie manner, and he leads by example. A better parallel to be drawn is to someone like Joshua "steel" Nissan — he is also forced into the position of a nurturer by an inability to play in the Major cycle.
"The best players always bring their players up because they show them how to play. That's what I did with malta, INS, aliStair, I brought them all up because they saw me play and I could teach them. That's what all the best players do. Every single best player of any sport any game, they all do that.
"I only do it because I have a VAC ban so I can't play with the absolute best. If I didn't have a VAC ban, I would dominate everyone." - tucks
That Chiefs team took the mantle from Tainted Minds and was the best team in the country moving onwards from IEM Sydney, which earned them outings at international events such as IeSF 2017 and WEGL 2017. Their status would get contested later in the year, though, as more teams established themselves in Australia and also got chances to go overseas and learn.
Storm clouds are closing in
When the Winterfox project came to an end in May 2017 due to internal issues and problems with the organization, the players had no other option but to return to Australia. emagine and co. played out almost two seasons of ESL Pro League in North America and attended one LAN, Northern Arena, with the experience and talent they brought back being a strong foundation to build a healthy competitive environment in Australia.
Talking about what they improved on during their stay in Chicago, dexter says: "It was probably the learning aspect of how to treat people and be a leader", stating that the overseas experience mostly helped them develop out-of-game skills: "The qualities I gained weren't even connected to CS that much, I mean you learn a bit about CS, but it was more about leadership qualities, minor details, working with people in general, people with different mindsets". tucks, who currently plays with one of the former Winterfox members, credited the NA trip for building a strong work ethic, something zewsy seconded, even though he stressed that the new location was not the difference maker. "It was just the fact that I was able to play full time and be held a lot more accountable for my actions," he explained.
Upon return, the ex-Winterfox members would disperse into different teams, and by the time qualifiers for IEM Sydney 2018 came around, the same had happened to the Chiefs 2017 roster. New talent rose through the ranks as well, which resulted in Australia having four competitive and salaried teams, each able to shine in the ever-growing number of qualifiers for international events: Tainted Minds, Chiefs, Grayhound and ORDER. Interestingly enough, all four teams are now led by the former Winterfox members — Chris "ofnu" Hanley leads Tainted Minds, Mike "ap0c" Aliferis does it for Chiefs, dexter calls for Grayhound, and emagine for ORDER. The North American trip seemingly resulted in a new wave of Australian in-game leaders, something that plays a crucial role in the development of any scene. Still, emagine is skeptical about the impact of the players' return, claiming that the growth could've also come from within:
"I think the Australian scene is independent of other scenes and independent of the players who have come and gone. I think that, even if we had not come back, the Australian scene would still be seeing its growth. I think the growth comes more from money being injected into the scene, full-time resources coming on, people playing more, being able to play full time — rather than bringing experience back." - emagine
Everything lined up in the second half of 2017, creating a perfect storm for Australian CS. On the players' side, Chiefs' IEM Sydney 2017 performance started a mentality shift, everyone started getting more international experience, a competitive top four meant no one could rest on their laurels, and the ex-Winterfox players' return brought home a new level of dedication. Tournament organizers secured better conditions for players and increased the number of international qualifiers. Lastly, teams were able to secure more funds and pay out significant salaries to the players, allowing them to play CS full time.
If only there could be another way to do this
The start of May 2018 also marked the beginning of the second edition of IEM Sydney, this time a 16-team event. Three of the Australian top four — Grayhound, ORDER and Chiefs — were at the tournament, ready to compete against the world's best. Coming in with poise and determination, the Australians surprised top teams expecting to run over the local representatives. "When we had gone to ROG Masters [at the end of 2017] and managed to beat TyLoo and Vega Squadron — which seemed impossible at the time —, it gave us new confidence in terms of just playing the game", dexter remembers. His squad, Grayhound, sent SK packing and was competitive against FaZe in the groups in Sydney, while the other Australians who made a mark, ORDER, would've taken out Cloud9 if not for a miraculous 1v4 clutch by William "RUSH" Wierzba at match point. Also worth noting is that all of those matches were BO3.
ORDER and Grayhound impressed by taking some of the biggest names in CS the distance, with players such as Jay "Liazz" Tregillgas and Sean "Gratisfaction" Kaiwai raising eyebrows individually, but none of the Oceania-based teams managed to make it out of groups. It was Renegades, who made up for their poor showing from last year — when they were, admittedly, still figuring out their new roster — who secured the playoffs to play their first big arena match ever.
Renegades squared off against MOUZ on the stage, Noah "Nifty" Francis gained the status of an honorary Australian after his 50-bomb on Inferno and over 7,000 people in the Qudos Bank Arena were going wild for jks and co., who were within touching distance of the win, but fell honorably to the European side after overtime on the third map. Despite the loss, few left the arena unhappy, having witnessed such a historic and exciting match live.
But while the average Counter-Strike fan in Australia is an avid Renegades supporter, there is a bit of resentment towards the team among the Australian competitive scene. "I think it is justified, especially when they came back last year and lost", SnypeR says, trying to explain how teams Down Under were feeling: "Why do they get this amazing opportunity when they are not the best?"
Renegades have gone through many ups and downs since their move to North America, in 2015. The move wasn't easy, the organization was going through turmoil, and they chopped and changed their roster in hope for a solution. After SPUNJ decided to call it quits, they tried yam as the in-game leader, had Rickeh come in as a talented AWPer, brought over Nicholas "Peekay" Wise to coach before trying out an international option, Aleksandar "kassad" Trifunović, but a real breakthrough was still missing. The core of AZR, jks and USTILO has been competing abroad for years, Renegades has attended 40 LAN tournaments since 2015, but big results only came after they added foreign talent to their squad in the shape of Nifty and Keith "NAF" Markovic, who was later replaced with Joakim "jkaem" Myrbostad. The first international tournament (excluding Minors) they won was SL i-League Invitational Shanghai at the end of 2017, while their first big tournament playoff happened only in 2018, at StarSeries i-League S4. The team consistently finished top two at the Asia Minor, alongside TYLOO, but the last Major they actually made was ESL One Cologne 2015, at a time when winning the Asia qualifier was a direct ticket to the event as global qualifiers had not been introduced.
And while Renegades have earned their place at international events through North American qualifiers, something no one can take away from them, and the majority of the invites they have received are not unmerited — only from time to time have there been Australian teams close to their level —, SPUNJ understands why some people back home could be upset:
"I know that when we moved away it left a massive void because any experience we were getting, we weren't giving back to the scene. In a way, still branding us as an Australian team and us competing at the Minors could be seen as unfair because of how that impacted the rest of the country. Now we were taking a spot from them while not even competing in their region. I could see why people were up in arms and critiquing us at the time, but I think that everybody has to look at it [from their own POV]. We wanted to chase the dream of being professional CS players, and to do that we had to make big sacrifices." - SPUNJ
Even though chasing the dream worked out fairly well for SPUNJ, as he successfully transitioned from playing to analysis and is now a standard piece of any big tournament broadcast, you can feel that the proud Australian in him still feels at fault for the scene not developing as much as it perhaps could: "I feel responsible for it in a way, which I hate. It's just a shame that we moved away".
What is stopping Renegades from coming back home now that there are more teams, tournaments, and qualifiers in Australia than ever? "[Low salaries] would be one big thing, but also, you can't really put a price on experience", says AZR, the only player still left from the squad that attended MSI Beat It! in 2013. when you are practicing these teams in NA and going to Europe to play other teams, that's a huge factor". The practice environment has improved a lot since 2015, but even now the top four teams rely on practicing overseas teams at bootcamps and events to make big improvements, and showing their hand while practicing local rivals is not an option because of how often they would meet in leagues and qualifiers. What makes it even harder to see AZR, jks and USTILO returning to their home country is the fact that two of their teammates are not Australian, and the same can be said about their current coach, Steve "Ryu" Rattacasa. Seeing that Renegades are a level or two above any team in Australia at the moment, their return would probably be a disruptive force to a scene that has just found stability, so having them continue their work abroad is probably the better option for all parties involved.
Hold on to yourself
Most recently, Tainted Minds represented the region at the Asia Minor and placed third, but, in all honesty, didn't look like they were a serious threat to the established duo of TYLOO and Renegades, who took the two Asian Major Qualifier spots for the sixth time in a row. But out of the competitive top four of Australia, Grayhound are perhaps the team that looks the best overall. Ollie "DickStacy" Tierney and co. had the best showing in Sydney, attended the EPL Finals in Dallas, beat out their rivals for a spot at DreamHack Masters Stockholm and just attended IEM Shanghai. The last event seemed like a great chance for them to make a breakthrough, as elite squads weren't present, but Grayhound went out with a whimper. Aim-wise, it seemed like they could take on the likes of TYLOO and Gambit, but late-round decisionmaking was an issue, perhaps due to a lack of experience or the pressure to perform.
Where does Australia go from here? Getting more overseas experience is key, says Joshua "INS" Potter: "I think we need more opportunities to verse the best, having just come from a bootcamp in Europe we learnt a lot about ourselves, individually and team-wise". His team, Tainted Minds, were bootcamping in Europe before the Minor and were headed to Malaysia shortly after returning from the event in London in order to play the DreamHack Masters Stockholm Asian Qualifier with a reasonable ping. The other two Australian teams that made the qualifier — ORDER and Grayhound — did the same, and the Aussie representatives reigned supreme over their Asian opponents.
Traveling to bootcamps from Australia isn't cheap, and neither is importing coaches and players, but that is something SPUNJ feels could help teams reach the next level - "We can even start importing players from Asia to come down and play. It's happening already and it happened a lot throughout history in Australian CS". SnypeR has his own take on it, agreeing that going overseas to learn is the way forward, but suggests Aussie teams to get short-term, interim coaches: "What we need to do, if we are going to go overseas, is hire coaches of any kind, or intelligent players, who can lift our game instantly". Just having someone that understands the meta behind you for a week or two would help much more than doing big changes, the veteran thinks: "Someone like kassad coming in and restructuring your whole team is too much of a one step back - two steps forward kind of a thing".
Getting funding for all of that is the tricky part. It doesn't seem like the current flock of organizations can manage much more, as not many revenue streams are left to be exploited. Gfinity Elite Series Australia, a mainstream-focused project that bands together three popular esports — CS:GO, Rocket League and Street Fighter V — could open some new avenues, but SPUNJ is looking past his home country: "I think the key to people being able to make a living in professional gaming isn't through Australia, it's through South-East Asia and China." Bridging the gap between the two regions and having Chinese and Asian organizations pick up Australian squads would allow a team like Grayhound to reach the next level, especially if that makes them enticing enough to attract their rivals' standout players.
An influx of money is also needed to prevent talent from leaving for greener pastures, as paychecks in Australia are nowhere near what is earned in Europe and North America. Rickeh is a player who established himself internationally and decided against returning home, plying his trade for CLG and Rogue, but losing someone like Liazz, INS, or Gratisfaction can still be prevented. Uprooting whole teams and transferring them out of Oceania is an option, but the Renegades case showed that those moves have a negative impact on the scene back home if they end up being permanent ones, and with a larger number of international events to attend each year, it's no longer imperative to move out of the region.
(*doesn't include NA-based RNG and WFX. Multiple AU teams at the same event are counted as multiple 'events attended')
Risks have been taken, sacrifices have been made made, and conditions are better than ever — the hard part has been done already. Australian Counter-Strike has strong foundations on which to develop further. Some hard tough decisions are still left to be made, but for the current generation, the most important thing is to simply play.