Interview with Izi Dream’s UK head coach Westonway on the French LoL scene and his time with Excel: “I believe the LFL is extremely close this year. It’s stacked with talent and the competition each week has been really exciting!”

Of the 13 League of Legends European Regional Leagues (ERLs) in 2021, not many are as feared or revered as French Ligue Française de League of Legends (LFL). They’re typically top contenders in the EU Masters (EUM) and boast some of the strongest teams the ERLs have to offer.
One such team is Izi Dream. Their inclusion of two individuals from Oceania this year sparked the curiosity of many: UK coach Scott ‘Westonway’ Farmer and Australian support Jake ‘Rogue’ Sharwood.
To find out more, we spoke to Westonway on a variety of topics: recounting his long career in Oceania, lessons he’s learnt from Excel Esports and why he’s enjoying his time on Izi Dream so far.

Thank you for doing this interview, Westonway. Tell us about your background and how you got your start in esports.

I’ve been working in esports since 2015, I started as a team owner in Australia. I knew that competitive esports would have a strong future after watching the LCS games, so I was inspired to start a team thereafter.

Our team qualified through the Oceanic amateur system and climbed all the way up to the Oceanic Pro League (OPL). The more our team played, the more I became interested in learning the strategic side of things. When our organisation was sold, I accepted a job as a coach. 

From your long history in the OPL, to the UK’s Excel Esports, to the LFL with Izi Dream… that’s quite a journey! How was the off-season for you before 2021 began and why did you choose to compete in an ERL? 

The 2020/21 off-season was actually the off-season where I received the most interest. Prior to this year, it was extremely difficult to even get an interview with an overseas team. I’m glad that general managers overseas are seeing the value in Oceanic talent. 

There are a few reasons why I was particularly motivated to join an ERL. Firstly, EU has been one of the best performing regions for many years. If I am ever to make it to Worlds with a chance of success, it would be here. Secondly, I believe EUM is the most exciting challenger system I can participate in, to compete against teams from all over Europe.

Finally, I knew the LFL would be stacked with talent this year and I wanted to be a part of it. The competition each week has been really exciting!  

“The best thing about working with [support] Rogue is that he is as close to the perfect teammate as a person can be… I expect that he will one day play in the LEC and would be a great player for the audience to follow.”

I don’t believe your time on Excel was much talked about. Did you enjoy your time with them in the LEC as an analyst? What were some of the most important lessons you took away from your time there?

Working with Excel in the LEC was a great learning experience. I had never worked as an analyst before and being thrust straight into the LEC was a difficult challenge. However, I was able to learn a lot from the players and the other analyst I worked with.

The important lessons were probably in the skills that I picked up. My presentation quality improved, I was able to do detailed level one’s among many other things. I think the most enjoyable part of my Excel experience was actually after the LEC ended, and my time spent working with their academy team. 

Westonway has fond memories from his time with Excel Esports and their academy (pictured third from left)

Why was working with Excel’s Academy team the most enjoyable part?

The players on the team were extremely fun to work with. The coach Timkiro was focused on creating a fun environment, and I got along especially well with Hjarnan and Kasing.

Working with an academy team is a lot less stressful than working in the LEC too, so it’s often easier to enjoy the game without needing to handle the pressure. 

I’d like to touch on your time in the OPL, your long history in the OPL includes bringing the Bombers to MSI. What were your best memories from your time there?

Going to MSI with the Bombers was a great experience. It was an incredibly tough split, so it was an amazing feeling to win my first OPL title and attend an international tournament. However, my most enjoyable moments has to be the time I spent there most recently with Pentanet.GG.

The team was incredibly enjoyable to coach, all of the players were positive and motivated. In the second split, we were able to finish in third place, above what most people expected of us. My best memory of all though, has to be back in 2018 Split 2 when the original Bombers team was able to achieve playoffs. At the time it was a massive achievement for me. 

The game that locked Bombers into playoffs during OPL 2018 Split 2

The Bombers of course were associated with Essendon Football Club, one of the biggest football clubs in Australia. How did it feel to be a coach of their esports branch? Do you think more football or traditional sports clubs should invest into Oceanic esports?

I think it’s great that the Bombers were involved in Australian esports, it gives additional credibility to the growing industry. I really enjoyed my time with Essendon, I felt really lucky to work at their office and use their facilities.

In my opinion, the Oceanic scene is going through a tumultuous time due to organisations investing too much, too fast and the industry not growing quickly enough to meet it. The scene is still growing, and I believe it’s a great space for traditional sports clubs to get involved in for the long haul. 

Bombers/Essendon Football Club’s facilities

Your last season with Pentanet.GG also coincided with a later announcement that the OPL would be no more. But recently, the LoL Circuit Oceania (LCO) was announced to the joy of many. How did you feel about the OPL’s announcement and what do you think of the LCO?

I was very concerned when I saw that the OPL was being shut down. For the higher profile casters and players, it was less concerning as there was a good chance they would be able to continue their careers overseas.

There are however a lot of casters, players and rookies who have worked incredibly hard over the years, and whilst they potentially wouldn’t make it overseas, they deserved a place to be. Therefore, when I heard about the LCO announcement I was really happy to hear that the Oceanic scene is being rebuilt. 

Your support from Bombers and Pentanet.GG, Rogue, also joins you in Izi Dream after the OPL’s closure. Was Rogue someone you really wanted to bring to France? What can you tell us about him?

Yes, I wanted to take Rogue to France. I was really hoping to be able to work with him again this season and am glad that I have the chance to. Rogue is a very talented player with a high level understanding of the macro game.

The best thing about working with Rogue is that he is as close to the perfect teammate as a person can be. He is professional, has a good work ethic and is always a positive, happy teammate. I expect that he will one day play in the LEC and would be a great player for the audience to follow. 

That’s interesting, because the NA LCS doesn’t consider Oceanic players as imports, but EU doesn’t have this rule. Do you think more players from Oceania should try to break into the European scene like Destiny and Rogue? Why or why not?

I think going to EU is difficult for Oceanic players. The level of competition in the ERLs is significantly higher than in NA, and there’s probably only a small handful of players who could be successful in the LEC.

If a player from OCE really believes they can be one of the best in the world, then I believe it ultimately makes sense to come to EU, since I believe the teams here will perform better in international competitions. 

“I’m very happy working with Izi Dream and would love to work for them again in the future. This organisation is probably the best I have ever worked for. I also think that if I am to continue coaching, I hope to stay in EU as I believe it’s the best region I can compete in.”

Let’s move on to the LFL. For 2021, the LFL is widely considered the strongest ERL right now due to how stacked all their rosters are. How are you finding coaching in the LFL so far, and how does it compare to your time in the OPL? Did you have a big say in building this team?

The LFL is perhaps the most enjoyable league that I have coached in. In the OPL, there are massive gaps in individual skill between the top and bottom teams, and moving a few places above expectations is an achievement.

However, in the LFL the skill gaps are much smaller. This means that almost any team in the league can compete to win. Izi Dream is an organisation that values working together, the coaching staff and management worked hard to assemble this roster and we’re really happy with the team! 

The LFL standings have looked exceptionally close after Week 4 concluded, with Izi Dream at 4-5. Who are the teams that you are keeping a very close eye on, which ones do you think will surprise and who will win LFL spring 2021?

That’s a tough question. I really do expect to see a lot of close 3-2 series when playoffs arrive. I think if I’d expect anyone to be a surprise based on the current standings – other than us – I’d probably say GamersOrigin. 

I worked with Innaxe and Nukes on FC Schalke 04 Evolution for a short time. They’re both really talented players with a great understanding of the game. In addition to this, I think their jungler Kirei is one of the best in the league. 

What are your goals with your first season at Izi Dream? Is it making the LFL playoffs or even the EU Masters perhaps?

My goal will always be to win every competition that I am a part of: both LFL and EUM. I think every player and team should have this goal.  Right now we are sitting at 4-5, however I believe the LFL is extremely close this year. As long as our team secures a ticket to playoffs, then there is a chance we will be able to take home the title.

I think this goes for almost every team in the LFL too, and I expect to see a lot of very tightly contested series in playoffs. 

Since you’ve worked with Excel in the past, do you still keep up with any ERLs and the UK LoL scene, such as the NLC? And if so, what do you think of it? 

Unfortunately, I have watched less UKLC and NLC than I would’ve liked since I finished working there. As a coach there is a huge obligation to watch and learn from the major leagues, as well as our own scrims and the LFL matches. It can sometimes be difficult to find time to watch other teams.

It is however exciting to see that Fnatic and Excel, whilst still at top of their league, seem to be facing stiffer competition each season. The UKLC was fun to be a part of, and I particularly remember the UKLC 2019 summer finals at Twickenham Stadium, where I got to meet a lot of UK LoL fans.

So before we end, I’d like to ask about your potential future. With the LCO coming up soon, the LCS adding in Oceanic talent, where do you see your future? Would you preferably stay in EU for the long term or do you wish to travel the world as a coach? 

It’s really difficult to answer questions about my potential future. As a coach or player in LoL, we are on incredibly short contracts and each year we face a very unstable future. Right now, all I can say is that I am very happy working with Izi Dream and would love to work for them again in the future.

This organisation is probably the best I have ever worked for. Behind the scenes, the staff put in so much effort to make our lives the best they can possibly be. I also think that if I am to continue coaching, I hope to stay in EU as I believe it’s the best region I can compete in. 

Thank you Westonway! You can catch Izi Dream playing in the LFL every Wednesday and Thursday at 5pm GMT on Twitch.

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