$696m sport Aussies quit their jobs for
IT'S the sport you've probably never heard about but one professional Australian team is about to take on the world.
The five Australian men, playing as the LG Dire Wolves, gave up their jobs to train full-time in professional video gaming this year, and last week became the first Australian team to qualify for the famous League of Legends World Championships.
Team manager Nathan Mott said the win could be a breakthrough for e-sports in Australia, as the team's matches would be seen by thousands of people in Chinese stadiums but watched by millions more people online.
The Championship attracted an online audience of more than 43 million people last year, including 14.7 million watching at one time.
"The World Championship grand final is played in the Bird's Nest in Beijing in front of 90,000 people so if you make it there that is a game-changer and that will change all of our players' lives," Mr Mott said.
"There's a lot of work needed to get there but we're confident thanks to the support we've had this year that we'll definitely make it."
The Dire Wolves went professional this year, training in a dedicated "gaming house" in inner-city Sydney, competing against nations including Turkey and Russia in a Brazil contest, and holding a bootcamp in South Korea.
Team captain Mitchell Shaw said the players treated training "like a full-time job" with structured 12-hour training days, a coach, and activities designed to help the team's mental and physical endurance.
"E-sports is different to normal sports," he said. "In normal sport you focus more on physical attributes while in League of Legends you focus on mental attributes. We pretty much train, gym, eat healthy, take care of ourselves, and it's really paid off this year."
The team will fly to South Korean for a second bootcamp this week to train against the world's best players before their first Championship game on September 23.
LG Electronics Australia marketing manager Russ Prendergast said the team would become a pioneer for Australian e-sports athletes, as the league had been "the best kept secret ever".
Research firm Newzoo recently found e-sports would generate $696 million in revenue this year - more than the AFL and NRL competitions in Australia - and that number would skyrocket to $1.4 billion by 2020.
"In 2015, with the Championships in the States, the prize pool alone was $17 million," Mr Prendergast said.
"These are unheard of numbers within traditional sports. This year, for me, is really the starting point for Australia where we're now starting to gain some momentum."
Twenty-four teams will compete in the League of Legends World Championships across China this year, with the grand final held on November 4.