The Road to Blizzcon Series will highlight the ANZ Representatives for BlizzCon across Overwatch, Heroes of the Storm, WoW Arena and Hearthstone. The first piece in the series follows the journey of Team Australia’s triumph at Overwatch World Cup Bangkok.

The Siam Paragon is home to some of Bangkok’s most exquisite shopping experiences. The seven-floor behemoth connects onto multiple other designer stores, making for a never-ending maze that leaves you and your wallet a bit light headed. But for one weekend in September, it transformed into the battleground for the Overwatch World Cup’s “Group of Death”.

Team Australia was thrown into the deep end to qualify for BlizzCon at OWWC. In a group with China, Sweden and Denmark – all seeded higher – and the explosive Spanish and Thai teams, many predicted Australia to just fall short. The start of the tournament did nothing to reassure fans either, dropping their first map on Lijiang Tower to Spain.

However, the team steadied the ship as the week went on. Although Control proved to be Australia’s nemesis, the Aussies were able to pick up victories over old foe Sweden, home nation Thailand, and eventually beating Spain.

Faltering against Denmark forced the Aussies in an unfavourable position – requiring either Sweden to beat Denmark or them to beat China. After Sweden was whitewashed by Australia on Day 2, there wasn’t much faith for them when Denmark looked convincing against Australia too.

However, I’ve never seen a bunch of Australians cheer so passionately for a foreign country. Behind the stage, the players were cheering for every kill, every tick, every map win. Out the front, the diehards were losing their voices as Sweden inched ever closer to an upset victory. The crowd was booming the entire weekend especially compared to the one he was in front of two weeks earlier in Melbourne, according to ex-Dark Sided and Team Australia off tank Leyton “Punk” Gilchrist.

“The Bangkok crowd had a lot more people and it was a lot louder. I can’t remember the MEO crowd as well, but I guess that’s a sign of them being less noticeable. During the Thailand games, you could hear the crowd going wild through each other’s mics and feel the vibrations and clapping.”

When Sweden toppled the dominant looking Denmark, Team Australia’s morale was high but they still had one job to do – win a map against China. As Oasis flew past, and Australia lost King’s Row after a “major throw,” there was only two more chances to punch a ticket to BlizzCon. On Temple of Anubis, the curse was broken, and it was the highlight of the weekend for all of Team Australia.

“In Bangkok, we didn’t have much time to do anything – it was pretty much between the hotel and the venue. However, on stage, when we won [Temple of Anubis] against China – that was a big one,” said Punk.

From there, Australia took Rialto to bring the series to 2-2, but lost after a blowout on Nepal. “We didn’t celebrate after we won Anubis because we realised we could win the series. It was unfortunate we didn’t in the end but we still qualified,” Punk conceded.

The Bangkok experience involved more than Overwatch for Team Australia though. Very rarely do players get the chance to travel overseas, and they took full advantage of it.

“We did this stupid video with Oasis [Team Australia Community Lead] where we tried all these Thai lollies and stuff. She made us all dress up in onesies and have bowties and it was all really silly. I think some of it is on Twitter but the video isn’t out yet – thank god!”

Punk doesn’t want this to be his legacy though – the youngster on the team still has a long career ahead of him and he wants to make a mark.

“I’d like to play in every World Cup until then – this year has been really fun and valuable. Obviously, I’d love to get to the Overwatch League but first I’ll need to go through Academy teams. I want to be able to look back and think I gave it a go and I did my best.”

The World Cup has been a learning experience for him too, and a launchpad to pursue opportunities outside of Australia.

“I learn and pick up stuff very quickly. If Gunba says something to me I can integrate it pretty well. I’ve still got a long way to go though. I’ve been trialling for some Academy teams but it’s not been looking good I guess. I’m not there yet I think, so another season in Australia is likely.

“I really look up to Space [Off Tank for Los Angeles Valiant] – he’s got this attitude of being really hard working and he’s never toxic, never flames, and he is always looking to improve. Someone told me he looks up to Fury [Off Tank for London Spitfire], I think it might have been Custa – so those two definitely.”

As for their preparations for BlizzCon, the team Australia machine is starting to come back into service.

“BlizzCon is going to be on another level [compared to Bangkok]. From watching last year – you are in the middle of this arena with 8000 people watching around you and you are sitting across from South Korea. It’s going to be pretty intense.

“We were a bit rusty at the very start after Thailand, but we are getting back on track now. I don’t think anyone is nervous for BlizzCon, but it’ll be tough. It could be the opportunity which gets me to NA though.

“We are just looking to get the best showing we can, whether that be like a 3-2 to South Korea or we somehow win, we are just hopeful.

“I’ve got family over there too and I’m staying an extra day to catch up with them so that’ll be nice. Everyone’s also looking forward to going to Disneyland – Gunba, Rqt and Trill missed out last year.”

But, there are a few downsides to the travel. “I’m not looking forward to the flight, not at all!”

His flight could only be made worse by one thing too. “I’d hate to sit next to Yuki – if he was to sleep he would be the guy to snore. Hus had to cop that at Bangkok so maybe he’d know!”

Team Australia face off against South Korea in the Quarter Finals of OWWC 2018 at 12:15pm AEDT on 3 November. You can catch the action on the PlayOverwatch Twitch channel. You can also follow Team Australia (@AUSWC2018) and Punk (@punkinoz) on Twitter.

Photos courtesy of Robert Paul/Blizzard Entertainment and Team Australia