Last year’s League of Origin wasn’t the best for the Sunshine State, as they first lost the first ever League of Origin match to Team New South Wales, and then got thumped back to back by Team Victoria and Team New Zealand. Unfortunately, the 0-3 performance dropped them to last and gave them the ignominious title of placing last in the first ever competition.

However, there is a bright side. A fourth-placing in 2017 means they come into League of Origin 2018 with no expectations whatsoever and any game they take is an improvement on last year. Understandably, the consensus was that Queensland had the weakest roster in last year’s competition, with Michael “Frogadog” Cornish in the toplane, Joshua “Wzrd” Russell in the midlane, James “Tally” Shute roleswapping to ADC as well as Lachlan “Sybol” Civil and Leo “Babip” Romer alternating the support and jungle roles.

With two roleswaps at any time, the team would always have a hard time, but team manager Zack “Rusty” Pye did the best he could with the talent available. He returns this year as manager once more alongside James “Denian” Goddard who takes up the role as coach after taking Chiefs Academy to the OCS title earlier this year.

This time around, we’ve got no roleswaps on the squad but instead a wealth of talent from the OCS. Two Emprox players are stepping up for the Sunshiners, with Jesse “Chazz” Mahoney on duty against the best midlane talent OCE has to offer, whilst Ian “Corporal” Pearse will team up with Chiefs Academy ADC George “Farmer” Normore in the botlane. Reunited with Denian for the first time since Chiefs Academy’s promotion, expect some fancy strats coming out of these two.

Now onto the veterans. Two monsters of the toplane will share their kingdom this year as ORDER’s James “Tally” Shute and Tectonic’s Daniel “Papryze” Francis are set to face off against the likes of Swip3rR, Pabu and Chippys. The toplane is the closest lane in the competition, and on a stage like this anything could happen, and the dichotomy of Queensland’s toplane power could be what pushes them over the edge against either Victoria or New Zealand, as NSW also have a duo in Swip3rR and BioPanther.

Tally has a good year. He’s been a shining light on the ORDER roster as the team has placed third in both splits this year and faltered to fourth in playoffs. Formerly of Legacy Esports, he’s really come into his own this year and will never can be completely counted out in any lane matchup. A Gangplank enthusiast much like Chippys, his ability to switch between carry and tank champions fluidly adds depth to the roster.

Papryze, on the other hand, hasn’t had it as easy. He was part of the Tectonic roster that crumbled in the second half of the year to be relegated, even though he sat out the last two games of Split 2 as well as promos/relos in favour of Mark “Praedyth” Lewis. The kid can play however, and always loves a good splitpusher if he can get his hands on one, so if he switches out with Tally expect some sparks.

A rookie at the beginning of the year, Babip joined the Chiefs Esports Club after Samuel “Spookz’ Broadley left for ORDER, and boy did he show up. He’s immediately emerged as one of the best junglers in the scene, even getting the better of former Dire Wolves jungler Shern “Shernfire” Tai on a few occasions. When his opponents in this League of Origin all come from teams that placed lower than him over both splits this year, Babip should come into this tournament feeling confident.

For a player hailing from the OCS, Chazz is a remarkably sound player. Previously on teams like Alpha Sydney, Outlaws and Sin Academy, he’s been around the scene for quite a while but has never broken through into the big time. He has a deep champion pool, and whilst he favoured Orianna and Syndra through the OCS, he can play anything given the opportunity. Expect him to step up, as with multiple OPL teams rebuilding, he can look to secure himself a starting position come 2019.

Farmer burst out of relative obscurity very late into this year, also playing on Emprox early this year but moving to a substitute role at Chiefs Academy in the second split. It was from the Chiefs that he would become more known, as Thomas “Omni” Dung was unable to play in the promotion/relegation series against Tectonic, Farmer roleswapped from ADC to the midlane and helped lead the Chiefs Academy side to a promotion once more. He’s a strong player with plenty of potential so expect good things from this youngster.

This is the biggest feather in the cap of Corporal, as he only joined the OCS in Split 2 this year, helping Emprox to a 5th place finish in the regular season before falling to the Dire Cubs in the playoffs. Playing for Queensland is another huge opportunity to get his name out there, and I’m sure he’ll take it with both hands. Mainly playing Morgana and Braum this year, he’s shown skill in the support role and I look forward to seeing what he gets up to with Farmer.

Expect the team to fully commit to supporting one side of the map, whether it be the toplane to aid the veterans or sending Babip on frequent trips to the botlane where he can set up camp to boost Farmer and Corporal. The team needs to make sure their synergy is on point so they can capitalise on Babip’s wealth of skill to take down the formidable laners on the other side of the Rift.

Because the topside are so skilled, other teams will target the rookies in champ select and in game, so a priority for Denian and crew is making sure Farmer and Chazz get exactly who they want so the team can succeed. If that happens and Babip shows up, there is absolutely nothing to say that Queensland can’t win games.

Fans hailing from the Sunshine State, you shouldn’t have confidence in this side, because this will be tough for them. But you should have hope. Hope can lift this team to above and beyond anyone’s expectations and they can only do that if you turn out in force. Queensland won’t be top of the leaderboard in any bookie’s eyes, but if they can take games of Oceania’s best, they’ll be the top in the fans’ eyes.