On the 1st of March, as the shocks from Niclas "Pengu" Mouritzen's retirement announcement faded, people began to wonder what was next. The question on everyone's mind was obvious: who would be replacing him? That player would not only be joining the European League champions, but they would also be replacing the best player to have touched the game.
The very next day, G2 Esports announced their new signing: Jordan "Kayak" Morley.
Joining from Cowana Gaming, Kayak had played against European League (EUL) top-flight opposition before, but had never felt the pressure of playing in the top-flight regularly and being in a chase for the biggest and most prestigious title.
Upon his announcement, many who had only cursorily watched the Challenger League (CL) and UK domestic competitions -- or not watched them entirely -- questioned just who Kayak was, calling into question his ability to replace the most decorated Siege player.
But now, with a leaner support staff and a now half-British roster, both Kayak and Head Coach Thomas "Shas[O]Udas" Lee are upbeat about his future and the future of G2 Esports as a team.
Welcome to G2 Esports, Kayak! Let's address the elephant in the room. You're stepping into huge shoes. How are you feeling and how are you going to manage everything that comes with taking this step up?
Kayak: Hi, thank you, as you may have guessed, I am absolutely over the moon to be given this opportunity in this great team with such great and experienced players/coaches under this humongous organisation. I know with time and hard work we can do great things.
About "filling" the shoes of Pengu, I think Pengu's shoes will never be able to be filled by any player; he has had an illustrious career and I don't think anyone any time soon will get close to the success he had and if I'm able to bring my own shoes to the server and show what I am capable of, then I believe great things will follow.
You will get a while in the EUL to familiarize yourself with the top-flight level of play before heading to the Invitational. Do you have any personal goals for yourself?
Kayak: Personal goals for me are to just get more and more comfortable within the team after every scrim or official game and be the best teammate I can possibly be for my team in order for us to win games.
Also, winning Invite wouldn't be too bad, huh?
How different do you expect the EUL to be from CL?
Kayak: EUL will definitely be a different gravy to CL -- you have all the best players and best teams in Europe. However in Cowana, we regularly practiced against EUL opponents.
Just the level of play and aim is definitely on a higher tier (in the EUL), so I am going to need to be on my highest level as soon as the first play day comes along.
How did the move to G2 come about?
Kayak: Well pretty much I was informed by my organisation (Cowana) that they had been approached by G2 and were wanting to trial me. Initially I was shocked, but also excited and felt more-than-ever up to the challenge and wanted to prove I could belong on this team. Then, the usual trial process proceeded, where they tried me and others for the spot.
A few weeks later, I heard back from my organisation that the trials had went well and that I was going to be transferred to G2 and after that it then really started to sink in how big this was going to be. I am more than ever up for the challenge.
For Shas now, players of Pengu's calibre are hard to replace. What made you settle on Kayak?
Shas: Firstly it's not just me calling the shots; there's a lot of elements that have to be considered inside and outside the server that the entire team came in to debate.
We felt that it was important that our new fifth was vocal, had a very good, strategic view of the game, and was fully adapted to a supportive role on the server.
On the periphery, we also had also floated back-and-forth on the idea of veteran players in the scene versus upcoming players and came to the conclusion that an up-and-coming player would offer more malleability and momentum in moulding that player into the role that the team requires.
We're more than confident that Kayak has the natural ability and the capacity to grow more than he has thus far.
What are the 2021 goals for the EUL, the Invitational, and the Majors for G2?
Shas: A player change is always new ground for each team, but our goals of competitive excellence are unchanged. We all understand that we are in a rebuild phase as we've only had limited time with Jordan at the moment, but we'll nonetheless be pushing ourselves and each other to the max.
What was the good in 2020 and how is your team shaping to eliminate the bad from 2020?
Shas: 2020 marked a big change in the team with CTZN and Virtue arriving and it did take us some time to experiment within the roster to work out the optimal formation.
These two were huge additions in-terms of raw gunskill and ability but it took a while for the foundation of the decision-making structure to mature; for example initially we had a lot of independant players that resulted in a heavy skirmish play style that has since evolved into a cohesive team.
I do believe that this was the biggest hurdle we had to overcome and I'm pleased to say that it already appears that Jordan slots right into our current structure.
How did Pengu announce his decision internally and how did you feel about it when you heard? The two of you have been together for years now.
Shas: It actually had been an ongoing discussion for a long time now, as Nic tentatively spoke about it back around the time of SI 2020. He was unsure if it was what he wanted and I wanted to protect him from making an impulsive decision, but being a pro player with the team's and your own expectations of high standards is a grueling path to tread if your heart is no longer in it.
Niclas has my utmost respect for his effort and work ethic during the past four months once he was firm on his decision that he wanted to leave the competitive scene.
Personally I'm a little sadge as Niclas and I have been on this journey together for the past four years or so and it's sad to see a friend and beloved colleague hang his jersey up. But if his heart is no longer in it, I firmly believe it's the best for him individually and the team overall.
Catch this new-look G2 roster in action on the 18th of March when the 2021 season of the EUL kicks off:
Juhani "Kantoraketti" Toivonen
Aleksi "UUNO" Työppönen
Ben "CTZN" McMillan
Jake "Virtue" Grannan
Jordan "Kayak" Morley
Thomas "Shas[O]Udas" Lee (Head Coach)