nawwk: "This is the time to really show what I can do"
The Swedish AWPer was on Tuesday unveiled as the Ninjas' newest member on a permanent transfer from GamerLegion, replacing Patrik "f0rest" Lindberg after the 31-year-old decided to get the old NiP gang back together over in Dignitas.
To say that nawwk has big shoes to fill is a gross understatement. After barely scraping by in the depths of Europe's second tier during his time with x6tence Galaxy and GamerLegion — he has yet to attend a Big Event —, the 22-year-old now finds himself assuming a central role in a legendary team such as NiP following the departure of one of the most decorated players, not only in Counter-Strike, but in all of esports.
But nothing seems to faze him, even though he acknowledges that he will have more eyes on him than ever. "It brings a lot of pressure, but I think that can be turned into something good that helps you perform," he told HLTV.org prior to his unveiling. "I feel like this is the time to really show what I can do. I know that I’m much better than what I showed in the second half of last year."
In his defense, GamerLegion has had identity issues from day one. When Dennis "dennis" Edman replaced veteran in-game leader Kévin "Ex6TenZ" Droolans just four months into the project, it became evident that it was only a matter of time before they became an all-Swedish roster (it eventually happened two months later). In 2019, 16 different players represented GamerLegion, seven of them in a stand-in capacity.
While digging up some of nawwk's old interviews, I came across one in which he professed his admiration for Aleksandr "s1mple" Kostyliev's consistency, which was one of the main factors that saw the Ukrainian named the second-best player of 2019. Last year, nawwk tended to veer between peaks and troughs, ending 67.5% of the maps that he played with above-average ratings - a percentage that drops to 58.8% if we only look at LAN games. Can 2020 be the year in which he can show his talent more regularly?
"Consistency has been a problem for me, especially lately," he admitted. "But there have been a lot of factors involved. The last six months were a trainwreck; we changed players all the time, which honestly caused some motivational issues and forced us to play as a mix, which was no fun. But I don't want to evade blame, I still could have performed better.
"This year I will work much harder to prove a point. I cannot wait to start playing with these really talented players. I am sure I will learn a lot from them. And with THREAT as a coach, he will switch things up and also help me to become a better and more consistent player."
In NIP, nawwk will reunite with his former teammate Nicolas "Plopski" Gonzalez Zamora hoping to replicate the magic that in 2018 saw x6tence Galaxy reach the semi-finals of DreamHack Open Winter. In Jönköping, the Swedes beat Complexity and LDLC, two teams who were inside the top 20 in the world rankings at the time, although neither victory caused as big a stir as when André "BARBARR" Möller said that he believed Plopski to be better than Brollan. Those comments were at the time met with bemusement by the community and JW, but all that is in the past: three of the players who made ranking of the top 20 players of 2019, including Brollan himself, predicted the 17-year-old to make the cut this year.
"Reuniting with Plopski is going to be great," nawwk said. "We have been good friends for a long time now, and he is the best teammate I have ever played with. It is basically the icing on the cake in terms of joining NiP."
The presence of a familiar face will be extremely important for nawwk, who will have to adapt his game to suit the needs of the team. He will be NIP's secondary AWPer behind Simon "twist" Eliasson, a decision that has left many fans perplexed and worried, and rightly so. In 2019, the AWP made up 52% of nawwk's total kills, while he barely touched the M4A1 (5%), the M4A4 (0.5%) or the two scoped rifles, the infamous SG (4.7%) and the AUG (3.1%).
"I think we will switch things up depending on the maps," nawwk explained. "But twist will be the main AWPer and I will transition into some kind of secondary AWPer/hybrid. It's something I kind of wanted to become but was too afraid to try.
"I know some people will question the decision, but I think this will turn out great. Of course it will take a little bit of time to get used to the new role, but I will work hard and do my absolute best."
nawwk will make his debut for NIP at the BLAST Premier Spring Series, kicking off January 31. The Swedes have been drawn into Group A, alongside FaZe, Liquid and MIBR, with the top two sides automatically advancing to the Spring Finals.