Dan Woods STK's Paintball Journey Around Asia
Trip to TPOC Thailand and PALS Singapore
Bankok, Thailand - Vietnam - Singapore
Writeup by Dan Woods from STK Australia.
Photographers: Zul Pgotography & Girl With a Camera
It's been a quiet year for STK so far. The only tournament we'd played together before Singapore was the first round of PALS in Kuala Lumpur. Typically we would have played a handful of local tournaments already, but the PPL has been transitioning into "NXL Australia" and their events have been scheduled to start much later in the year. And due to work commitments we haven't been able to field a full roster for the new Perth league, the MPS.
Some of our players are guesting for teams in Australia's Super 7's. Rambo and I were keen to have some extra-curricular activity of our own so we set our sights on the TPOC. We had heard many excellent reports of this event with several top teams from Asia in attendance. We were fortunate enough to be put in contact with Asia-Pacific champion, Infernal. After a few Facebook messages, we were scheduled in to join them for the second round of the TPOC in Bangkok. Coincidentally, the second leg of the PALS in Singapore was the following weekend. So Andrew and I booked the week off and planned some R&R in between the tournaments.
To guest with Infernal was an exciting. We have admired their team for many years. They beat us in the championship game at World Cup Asia in 2012 and were the overall series champions of PALS last year. Some of the best players in the Asia Pacific play on Infernal.
The tournament kicked off on Saturday. The field layout was challenging, there were a lot of big gaps and the wide bunkers were not ideal... small doritos and mini A's and pins. In typical Bangkok fashion, it was also hot. I wanted to play good for our new team-mates on Infernal, but it definitely wasn't an explode down the tapes kind of field. With the huge gaps it took a lot of patience and a lot of diving to survive the field. Rambo and I found it a bit easier to talk being on the same side of the field as the tournament progressed so I stuck it out with him on the snake side eventually. It was the kind of field where you really had to check off everything before moving.
It was a highlight to see the Infernal guys in action from the same side of the field, for once. We managed to play well and make it through the prelims in 2nd seed. This left us to play off against Raskal in the semifinals.
We came out strong, going up 2 points quickly. Then I got a penalty on the break -- I got hit on my outer-most pod, didn't know and gunned up. That cost us a point. Then we lost the next point. And the final point, it was a long one to start with. Then, we had some friendly fire on our side of the field, with Rambo accidentally getting shot. He was holding up the dorito side, once he was gone I looked over to catch a glimpse of Raskal flying down the dorito side. And then that was it. We lost and went into the playoffs for 3rd and 4th. We managed to win that against Virgin Aisawan.
It was a great experience to play with Infernal. I enjoyed getting insights into how Infernal works. From my observations, I would say Infernal is more structured and disciplined than STK.
Infernal took us out for a meal after the tournament and we spoke for hours about our teams. It was great to hear about certain things from their perspective, how they practice and some of their history. Infernal really looked after us while we were there. Thank you Ole, Ae, Shagga, Bank and "the manager" for letting us be a part of Infernal for the weekend.
The TPOC event was excellent -- it really has it all. Great competition and friendly atmosphere. The organiser, Tom, really looks after everyone. I hope the rest of STK can make it to these events in the future.
With TPOC out the way, Rambo and I had a week to kill before PALS Singapore. We decided to go to Vietnam to pass the time. We looked at Ho Chi Minh and then realised it was 40 degrees every day there. We were still recovering from wanting to kill ourselves every waking moment in the Bangkok heat as usual, so we settled for the capital of Vietnam, Hanoi, where it was a much more pleasant 27 degrees.
We stayed in the Old Quarter, a hectic sprawl of narrow streets packed with motorbikes, cars, people, roadside vendors and buildings. There were so many motorbikes on the road. Waiting for an opening to cross the street is impossible. The method is to just go. Don't speed up or stop, just walk at a steady pace across the road and let the traffic dodge you.
The first day we explored the Old Quarter and tried the food. We made sure to eat all the classic Vietnamese dishes we had heard of, Bun Cha, Banh Mi, Pho, and let our AirBNB host show us some other foods.
The following bay, after a 4 hour bus ride, we took a junk boat out to Ha Long Bay, a UNESCO World Heritage Site; some thousands of isles emerging from the tropical water. We disembarked the junk boat to kayak around the isles. If we capsized, there was no way Rambo could free his giant legs from the kayak in time and he would definitely die. We precariously threw cameras between our kayak and other tourist's kayaks for photos all with Rambo's life hanging delicately in the balance.
The bus ride to and from Ha Long Bay went quick chatting with Rambo. Many things have changed over the last decade and we don't hang out as much as we did when we were kids but we are great friends.
We spent some more time exploring Hanoi, and then prepared to continue our journey to Singapore for the second round of the PALS.
We met up with the team on the Thursday and walked the field. Stevie clocked up his first absence from our travelling roster as he was tied down with work. That leaves just me as the only STK guy who has been to every tournament we've ever done.
On Friday, our first game was against Sydney SWAT. It felt like their offense wasn't quite dialed in for that first game and we were able to win 4 - 1. Next up we had Raskal who we beat 3 – 1. And then we LA Wrecking Crew. We'd never seen this team play before. Playing American teams is exciting as I feel they have a different play style. We won 3 - 1, but the points were close. We had a weird point where Rambo and I were trapped in the back center trying to hold off their dorito side and we were taking turns taking pot shots over the top of the bunker. Our breakshooting that game in particular was pretty strong I think too.
This left us in the weird position of not having dug ourselves into a hole on the first day for once.
We went onto Saturday and versed the Hellions from Singapore first, a new team to Division 1. They came out hard and gave us a really intense, close game. We trailed for most of the game. At 2 - 3, Nalds broke the game open getting down into their snake. With the score at 3 - 3 and not much time left, we got a kill on the break and pressed down the field. We were able to come away with the win with a few seconds left.
We played Raw next. This round, Raw had Damian Ryan from Infamous guesting for them. We beat Raw 4 -1 to lull us into a false sense of security. At this point, we'd won all of our prelim games so far which is unheard of for us. We had one left against Xtioneers. They stomped our faces in 0 - 4 just to give us something to think about going into Sunday.
Sunday was strange. Nemesis and LA Wrecking Crew had their semi final up first. We had all our stuff ready in the pits to follow as the next game. The Nemesis/Wrecking Crew game ended in a tie and went to overtime. Time expired for that too so it went to one on one's. Then things got weird, we ended up watching the two teams play 6 or 7 one on one's. It just kept on going. Then there was a huge commotion about is it meant to be infinite one on one's played or does it go back to prelim seeding. We waited and waited for a conclusion. We dumped our hoppers as the paint had all swollen in the humidity of the pits waiting. It was quite a wait. Finally, it was resolved with Nemesis winning.
Next up was our semifinal against Raw. What followed was a Raw we hadn't seen before. It would be easy to say Damian Ryan did all the work but it wouldn't be true. On the receiving end that game, I can say that every player on that Raw roster took part in stomping us out. We had no answer. Damian was clocking G's on the break and flying down the doritos. The others were wrecking us too. In the prelims, I think we had more success as we were getting G's on the break and it left us with more bodies to deal with Damian. In this game, the kills just weren't coming on the break. We got shut out 0 - 4. It was crushing. I thought we might be able to win two PALS in a row. I got back in the pits after getting shot out that last point and had a slam fest with a bunch of pods. I'm glad Hunter was there to see it and be proud of my rage. Getting shut out in the semi's is heinous.
Raw went on to shut out Nemesis too and won the tournament. I couldn't be mad for long -- Raw have helped us in the pits so many countless times. Jane, aside from being a paintball celebrity in her own right is also one of our paintball idols, and all of the guys on that team are so earnest and nice. It was great for them to win.
And that was it. Two third places in 10 days. New friends on Infernal. Getting curb stomped in a semi's game. Back to Perth.
We're currently sitting at the top of the PALS scoreboard, and I would have to attribute some of this to our M2's. Thank you DYE for your continued support.