For the past two years, the Dire Wolves have terrorised the OPL as they repeatedly crushed all opposition en route to four consecutive domestic titles. But the side has grown a little long in the tooth and CEO Nathan “Rippii” Mott and newly appointed Performance Director Curtis “Sharp” Morgan have rebuilt the squad from the ground up to challenge for the OPL title in 2019.

Prior to the beginning of the offseason, Mott announced his intention to focus on developing new talent instead of maintaining the side that had won four championships in a row, and his team quickly dispersed with the newest member of the team suddenly becoming the veteran. It will be extremely interesting to see how this roster stacks up versus the competitive rosters being built by other teams.

Firstly, there’s been a change in the staffing dynamic as the mastermind behind the Wolves, Sharp, leaves the head coaching position to take up another role within the organisation as Performance Director. His replacement is Charlie Wraith, the former Avant Garde coach who’s had a wealth of experience at the competitive level, but has been unable to take his team to the heights that the Avant teams were capable of. Most recently he narrowly kept his team in the OPL, and he’s got an opportunity to step up this year with the support of the Dire Wolves organisation.

After the sudden departure of Ryan “Chippys” Short prior to the beginning of Split 2 this year, Brandon “BioPanther” Alexander was promoted from the Dire Cubs to the starting side and set the OPL on fire with his shining personality and strong mechanics. He remains with the squad in 2019 as the most veteran player on the side, a huge responsibility for the young player. It remains to be seen whether he can step up when not surrounded by some of OCE’s best players.

For years now, the Dire Wolves’ winning strategies have been centred on jungler Shern “Shernfire” Tai, and now the team will have to instead play around Toby “UDYSOF” Horne as the former jungler steps back from the competitive scene for the first split of 2019 citing a mental health break. UDYSOF was present for the Dire Wolves’ 2018 world championship run after Shern’s two game competitive suspension. He played earlier in the year for the Dire Cubs OCS team and went to Korea with them as the team’s only substitute. He played considerably well considering his opposition and will be someone to look out for as the team develops throughout 2019.

The signature hand shake with Toby “UDYSOF” Horne: Dire Wolves

The first of the new players to sign with the Dire Wolves heading into the 2019 season is Jarod “Getback” Tucker. First entering the spotlight as the winner of The Next Gamer in 2017, where he won a signing to the Dire Wolves, he now enters the starting roster for the first time and will attempt to fill the shoes of Stephen “Triple” Li who made a case for one of the best midlaners the region has ever seen just in this past year. Getback placed third in the regular season with the rest of the Dire Cubs roster and then fell to Intuition in the semi-finals. He’s got potential and it depends on the Wolfpack’s new environment to whether he steps up and cements himself as a top mid-laner in the region.

Andrew ‘Anderu’ Baihn is the team’s next pick up, a strong mechanical player with a penchant for positivity in the scene. Mainly known for his time on Tectonic Academy and then the Tectonic OPL team partway through the year, he actually started off playing in the Oceanic Open Ladder in 2017. In the second split he joined Lynx, but not before a stint on Equinox Dawn where he continued to develop a reputation in those lower tiers of competitive play. However, his talent has been spotted by Sharp and Rippii and after helping Tectonic to an upset over the Chiefs in the middle of Split 2, he’s been given the opportunity to play on an OPL side consistently for 2019.

The new view of Dire Wolves headquarters, a glass window separating both esports and sports. Source: Dire Wolves

The Wolfpack’s last pickup for 2019 is Ian “Corporal” Pearse. Most recently found on the rookie Team Queensland in this year’s League of Origin, he obviously made an impression on the Dire Wolves’ management on top of his consistent performance for Emprox this year to warrant a starting spot on the side for next year. With the Wolfpack intending to grow players, Corporal’s potential could definitely be unlocked and he could explode onto the scene when given the room to grow. He’s shown an eagerness for playmaking supports such as Braum and Rakan, and he’s been responsible for starting many of the team’s game-winning players, so if he can continue that into next year and set up his team to wipe their opposition, he’ll quickly establish himself as someone to fear.

There’s no doubt that the strength of the Dire Wolves’ roster is significantly less than what we’ve seen in the past and there are many already calling that the Wolfpack will be dropping down the leaderboards come the start of the split next year, but if Rippii and Sharp can create an environment where these players can flourish, we may see the Dire Wolves pose a threat once again. Don’t count this young, inexperienced side out, and you can expect that if you slip up the Wolfpack will sink their teeth into you and rip your team to shreds.