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Team Secret's Wild Rift champion squad have yet to meet in real life, but that's okay

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The pandemic has played havoc with our personal lives, but for Team Secret's Wild Rift team, it has helped to build a trophy winning chemistry that will see them compete for a slot in the upcoming League of Legends: Wild Rift Worlds 2021 — even if they have not yet met in real life.

The lockdowns in the Philippines have made travel impossible, and Riot Games has confirmed that the team will have to play from individual homes for the SEA Championships 2021. 

The publisher had originally stated that teams would play from a designated location.

But that's not a strange thing for Team Secret, whose Wild Rift squad had formed in the midst of the pandemic in February early this year. 

Instead of picking up an established squad, the esports organisation ran trials, and from there chose players who mostly had no background in professional esports.

Take for example Caster "Chewy" Dela Cruz, who saw an ad for Wild Rift and decided to pick it up. He was previously playing Dota 2, and became a streamer for Wild Rift instead. From there, the Dragon lane player was scouted by current captain James "Hamezz" Santos, and asked to try out.

"I didn't know anyone in the trials, I was going in blind," said Chewy.

Team Secret's Wild Rift team (from left): Core, Tatsurii, Trebor, Hamezz, Chewy and Azar. (Images: Team Secret)
Team Secret's Wild Rift team (from left): Core, Tatsurii, Trebor, Hamezz, Chewy and Azar. (Images: Team Secret)

Winning ways, rocky start

But, despite the lack of familiarity, Secret's Wild Rift team have done well for themselves. They were runners-up at the PPGL 2021 Summer Split: Playoffs against Amihan Esports, and then proceeded to finish in the fifth or sixth place at the Summer Super Cup. 

With their biggest competition Amihan having had to disband, Team Secret saw off all other challengers, and stomped their way to the PPGL 2021 Fall Split in style, only dropping one game in the Grand Final.

However, while their Fall Split run looked like a breeze, Secret were putting in a lot of hard work behind the scenes, with country manager Yamyam Villanueva Yui making sure the team was in tip-top form. 

They finished the group stage early, but only took a four day break.

"I want to train them slowly and effectively just like how professional orgs do it, so probably not the stricter way for now since they are very good listeners," said Yui. 

However, this led to a slight discipline problem, Yui said. She discovered that an unnamed player appeared to have lost focus, was late to join training, and coming up with multiple alibis.

"It's really hard to control players if we are not in the same place together. So I gave that player a warning, and told him that if he'd kept misbehaving, I would give him a penalty and change the training to a stricter regimen."

Yui added that even the Secret captain Hamezz got mad at the player. However, the unnamed player apologised and promised to make it up to the whole team, and eventually "did a good job in the playoffs".

Even then, while it looked like Secret were stomping in the upper bracket of the playoffs, jungle player and ex-LoL pro Robert "Trebor" Mansilungan had fallen sick. Trebor, whose in-game banter and jokes never failed to lift morale or make the team laugh, couldn't quite give his all.

"After I woke up one morning, I had a sore throat and started having an off-and—on fever, and it took me a week to recover. I was playing the tournament sick," said Trebor. "I wasn't playing bad, but I wasn't 100 per cent on my game."

Thankfully, it wasn't COVID-19, as he went to get tested after the Fall Split ended and got a negative result.

Aiming for Worlds 2021

For mid-laner Heri "Tatsurii" Garcia, the upcoming Wild Rift SEA Championship 2021 is an opportunity to win the US$30,000 top prize and make his stoic captain break out into a smile — Tatsurii says he doesn't do that a lot.

"I hope we go to Worlds so Hamezz can smile," said Tatsurii with a chuckle.

While Team Secret may not be able to meet up this time, the team are looking forward to finally doing so when they get a chance.

"Only using Discord can be pretty hard to establish friendships and relationships. Having a bootcamp will help the team to have connections with each other," said Chewy.

Catch Team Secret in the Group Stage at the Wild Rift SEA Championship 2021 starting on Sep 23.

Aloysius Low is an ex-CNET editor with more than 15 years of experience. He's really into cats and is currently reviewing products at canbuyornot.com

For more esports news updates, visit https://yhoo.it/YahooEsportsSEA and check out Yahoo Esports Southeast Asia’s Facebook page and Twitter.

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