When an Australian is not in Australia, they can hear another Australian from a mile away. (As an Aussie expat, I should know.)The way we lean back and relax into our words, the way we elongate our vowels—the sounds feel like home. And that’s how it felt talking to Scott “Custa” Kennedy, support for the Dallas Fuel and, thus far at least, the only Australian representative in the Overwatch League.
Custa grew up in the Mitcham Hills area of Adelaide, South Australia. He likes Vegemite. He cheers for the Adelaide Crows in the Australian Football League (“We don’t talk about the Grand Final,” he said, referring to last fall's bitter defeat). He’s the kind of bloke you would’ve been easy friends with in high school, a good mate to take to the pub. And now he finds himself playing in the first global city-based esports league—for Dallas, Texas.
I get a lot of messages from Australian people saying, ‘I’m going for the Dallas Fuel because you’re the only Australian,’ and I really do appreciate it.
It’s a convoluted outcome, to be sure. It all began for Custa in 2015, when he paused his engineering studies to travel to North America to take a shot at becoming a pro player in Overwatch, which at the time was only in beta.
“It was really tough to explain to everyone else that this is what I wanted to do,” Custa said. “I honestly didn’t tell a lot of people other than my close family and friends. I literally just lied and said, 'I’m gonna go work in Canada and do something different,' right? But I was really sure of myself. I knew I could do it if I really put the time into it.”
It was a calculated risk. “[Going pro] was the thing that I wanted to do the most, but obviously moving across the world and being like ‘I’m gonna do esports!’ is not a reliable life strategy.” Thankfully, Custa’s plan went deeper than that. He had some money saved up, enough to commit as much time as possible toward his goal, perhaps with some part-time work and travel on the side.
But he never had to resort to his fallback plan. In 2016, Custa made the roster of Fnatic, playing alongside tank Matt “Coolmatt” Iorio, now with the Houston Outlaws. The organization dropped Overwatch in mid-2017, but Custa didn’t let that affect his drive to make it big.
“I had a really strong Overwatch resume at that point,” he said. “I’d been to a bunch of LANs, I’d been to Korea. So I knew I had the ability, I knew I had a lot of respect from a lot of players and teams.”
Custa landed in Arc6 alongside a murderer’s row of future Overwatch League talent: Dante “Danteh” Cruz, now with the San Francisco Shock; Indy “SPACE” Halpern from the LA Valiant; and current Dallas teammate Félix “xQc” Lengyel. Finally, during the Overwatch League’s signing window, he was picked up by the Fuel, whose core was made up of the most successful Overwatch team in the West, EnVyUs.
It wasn’t the smoothest transition. He said, “It’s definitely hard joining a team that has so much history and so much synergy, trying to insert yourself and being like, ‘Hey! I’m here now, too, guys! How you doin’?’ But it’s something that these guys have all been really accepting of. They’re really trying to help all three of us new players come in and find a spot within the team.”
As the league’s only Australian, Custa is heaps loved (heaps is Aussie slang for “very”) by his homeland: “I get a lot of messages from Australian people saying, ‘I’m going for the Dallas Fuel because you’re the only Australian,’ and I really do appreciate it,” he said.
Yet there can be no success without sacrifice. “My good friends and family, that’s what I miss the most, having those relationships,” Custa said. “You really don’t have those when you move to a new place.”
Then there are the little things, like food. For instance, is Custa a meat-pie or a sausage-roll man? “I usually get one of each when I go to the bakery,” he confessed. “A meat pie, a sausage roll, and a Farmer’s Union iced coffee. That’s Adelaide in a nutshell! When people say, ‘What food do you miss the most?’ I always say the bakery.”
Ultimately, the lack of Australian-style bakeries in Los Angeles is worth it. Custa set out more than two years ago to achieve his dream, and—while he hopes there is a lot more to come—in the meantime he wants to be an example for what Australians can achieve in Overwatch.
“I really want to help as many Australian players [as possible] make the transition into North America and Europe, and I guess worldwide," he said. "With Contenders moving to Australia, I’m hoping that we’ll see a lot more Australians [in Overwatch League] in the future.”