Within 10 days of signing Liam “malta” Schembri, Grayhound qualified for two large international events: IEM Sydney and ESL Pro League Season 7 Finals in Dallas. The roster change, which saw malta replace the Tainted Minds-bound Callum “BURNRUOk” Henderson, hasn’t hindered Grayhound’s status as the best team in the region, and has, arguably, made the team more versatile and intuitive.

I spoke with new addition malta at the EPL Season 7 APAC Finals about his departure from Chiefs, the roles of Grayhound’s players and his team’s recent performances.

You were seen as the right-hand man to tucks on Chiefs, especially towards the end when you two were the only original members remaining. Did that make the decision to leave the team any tougher?

So, right at the end, I was in-game leading for Chiefs and Tyler [tucks] was taking over the secondary calling, but, before that, it was the other way around. It was a really big factor because, at the end, I did want to go back to Tyler in-game leading; I felt like I wasn’t doing a great job with it. In that sense, it made the decision easier because I didn’t really fit as an in-game leader for that team. In the end, I think it’s worked out really well for them: ap0c fits well and Tyler in-game leading is the right decision for that team.

What was the reason for this role swap?

Tyler had some stuff out of game that he had to deal with. He wasn’t that focused and he asked me if I wanted to take over for a couple of weeks while he does all that. It was working well and we were doing quite well in practice and officials, so we left it as it was. As time went on, I felt that the cracks were showing with my in-game leading.

Your transfer over to Grayhound was part of a mini-shuffle within three top teams in the region. Was the catalyst for this domino effect Grayhound seeking you out or was it triggered by BURNRUOk’s move to Tainted Minds?

What happened was erkaSt came to me and was like “hey, what are your plans for the next year?”. He came to me, said they were interested in replacing Cal [BURNRUOk]. A couple of days later, Tainted messaged me and said they were interested in replacing chuch. I had a choice to decide which of the two top teams to join and which one I thought would be number one. I’m good mates with Josh [INS] on Tainted and he was talking to me – they were talking to me through him. I’m good friends with all of the Grayhound guys and I really like the style of CS they play, so I decided to go with them in the end.

malta and DickStacy (right) are reuinted after the latter stood in for Chiefs at IeSF – Source: AEL

Both teams were looking to grab you as a replacement for players that have very similar roles and styles. Coming into Grayhound, have you been slotted into the positions and roles BURNRUOk played or are the team making changes to accommodate you more?

We’ve swapped it up a bit on some maps but for now, because we’ve only had a week – we had about three days before the IEM Sydney qualifiers and about a week and a half before Pro League finals – we just decided to slot [me] in for now and see how it goes. After IEM Sydney, and I guess after Dallas, we’ll probably reconsider and see if someone else can slot into that role and see where the roles fit.

On the topic of Grayhound’s roles, this team’s in-game leading duties have fluctuated significantly between dexter and erkaSt. What can you tell me about that dynamic now?

Personally, when I was outside the team, I was so unsure of what dexter’s in-game leading would be like, because he lurks. If you look at a team like any that Happy’s played in with him lurking and in-game leading, I always feel it’s somewhat distanced and not efficient. But, in this team, it just works. Chris [dexter] micromanages really well while playing his own game and performing super well. erk will sometimes call a tactical pause or, at the end of a round, be like “Chris, I want to do this”; he’ll kind of be the secondary caller. In the end, Chris has final say and he does take control of the rounds.

As you mentioned, your team managed to qualify for IEM Sydney after about three days with you in the lineup. How did you feel about the road to getting that spot at the event, considering you only had to face Trident and Legacy?

[chuckles] Yeah, I mean, Legacy beating Tainted obviously, for us, was quite nice. Tainted are a scary team. With Cal in there as well, they’ve got a lot of firepower and individual skill. I would’ve still backed us to win that series, but it definitely would’ve been a lot harder. I think Legacy are a really good team; they definitely showed it over the qualifier. But, in the end, versing Trident and Legacy to get to IEM Sydney is the dream run for us. This LAN was the chance to prove ourselves and I think we did.

You mentioned earlier that you thought ap0c was a good fit for your vacant spot in Chiefs and you guys actually played them in the IEM qualifier seeding match. What are your thoughts on that lineup, considering you’ve won a LAN with four of those players?

I wouldn’t look at that result and draw anything from it, purely because it was a pretty meaningless BO3 and both teams were just having a bit of fun. I think that team will be really scary. I think Texta is, raw talent-wise, one of the best players in Aus. Same with ap0c; on his day, he’s nutty. Tyler, again, amazing; really good player. I think sterling is on the brink of being like a Grat or Sico; I think he’s on the brink of being an amazing AWPer. In the next six months, you’ll see him tip over the edge and become a really good player. flickz is underrated. I think people underrate him so hard. He’s very smart, always comes in with massive multi-frags when needed. Individual skill-wise, they’re really good; they can match up against any of the top teams.

The new-look Grayhound roster will look to do damage at two upcoming international events – Source: Grayhounds Twitter

You guys have been matched up with Cloud9 for your first game at IEM. In the past, we’ve seen Australian teams try a lot of anti-stratting against international opponents. How much does that factor into your preparation?

It’s going to be hard against Cloud9, I think. Strategically, there’s not heaps of depth and they’re not heavily reliant on strategy. They’re more reliant on individual plays. I don’t know if that’s changed with FNS coming in, but, from what I’ve seen, it’s pretty similar. We’re going in with our own game. They do a lot of contact executes and stuff like that, so we’ll try and counter that playstyle and force them to go into more executes where they might be a bit uncomfortable. Going into it, there’s no pressure on us. We’re going to do our best to prepare and go into it with a gameplan.

On top of qualifying for IEM Sydney, you’ve just qualified for EPL Season 7 Finals in Dallas. How do you feel the semi-final against ORDER went?

With the ORDER game, I’d say it came down to the vetoes. They picked Mirage, which was really odd because we thought they would pick Inferno. In our heads, the maps were Inferno, their pick; Nuke, our pick; and Mirage, the last map. We were very confident going into Nuke and Mirage. We haven’t played much Nuke and it really showed, but, individually, we’re all really confident Nuke players, so, at the end of the day, we managed to win it. I think if they picked Inferno, they would’ve had a better chance on Mirage. I think we are the best Mirage team in the country now; we proved that with that win. Inferno is definitely something we need to work on and experiment with.