That’s all Matt “Drippay” Den-Kaat wanted. A chance to show that he wasn’t just the best player in the Oceania region, but that he was one of the best Rocket League players in the world. After being relegated from the Rocket League Championship Series in his first North American season, he now knows there’s more to life than missed opportunities.
Drippay left his family and home behind for the chance to play in North America. Things didn’t exactly go as planned.
He landed with Evil Geniuses, a squad he knew well. The same squad he eliminated from the Season 6 World Championship.
That season was very kind to the Australian star. The Oceania region was practically built on his skill and reputation, but his status among the world’s best was never fully acknowledged in the events leading up to Season 6. The league he played in hung over his success like the gloves of a puppet master.
The feedback from the chorus of Rocket League fans poured in. Drippay isn’t that good. He only dominates his region. He can’t do it on the big stage.
And then he did.
Drippay led Chiefs Esports Club to an improbable top four finish at the Season 6 World Championship. He was named Day 1 MVP for his performance and he wrote himself into Rocket League esports lore. The deepest run for an OCE team in RLCS history came at the hands of its most prestigious player. After Season 6 Drippay felt like there was nothing left to prove in OCE. He had dominated the region since its inclusion in the World Championship in Season 3, and now he had proved himself on the big stage.
“I was looking to move to NA for a while before it actually happened because in OCE there’s not a lot of competition so you can’t really make a career out of esports,” Drippay said in an exclusive interview with The Game Haus. “It was definitely my goal. After Season 6, my performance at Worlds definitely got me across the line to make that happen.”
Evil Geniuses manager Stephen “Fireworks” Swims-Fuleihan had seen firsthand what Drippay could do. When Reed “Chicago” Wilen left EG for G2, Fireworks already had his sights set on a replacement.
“When we ended up losing Chicago, Drippay was our first option by far,” Fireworks said. “He was the one person we wanted to fit into the team. The main thought process we had was making sure we did have the best player, and Drippay was that guy. He definitely showed it with the season that he had. We didn’t get the season we wanted, but his performance was really good. Overall, it was the right choice.”
His arrival to North America wasn’t exactly smooth. Issues with the Trump Administration’s new laws on immigration meant Drippay had to make stops in Canada with his teammate Gabe “CorruptedG” Vallozzi and Evil Geniuses’ social media manager, Matt Demers.
On top of the visa complications, this was Drippay’s first time away from home. His first time on his own was half way around the world from the rest of his family.
“My main worry was leaving home,” Drippay said. “Obviously being away from family and friends was a worry, but other than that I was looking forward to playing in NA and scrimming against the top teams everyday. It was an opportunity I couldn’t let go to waste.”
When the going got rough, he focused on the game that brought him to NA in the first place. He worked on staying positive and focused on his craft, and his family cheered him on from home.
“We do weekly, sometimes daily, messages and video chats,” Drippay’s father, John Den-Kaat, said. “I am a huge Rocket League fan and enjoy keeping abreast of the current pro-scene and attending events overseas when I can. This gives me a better understanding of what’s going on in his career.”
During that transition Fireworks and Evil Geniuses became his proverbial family.
“I am so thankful that he joined EG,” John continued. “They have been an amazing org and helpful throughout his transition to NA, especially assisting with necessary relocations whilst organising his P1 visa.
A special commendation to Stephen for his continued support and friendship with Matt and his open communication and feedback to us back in Australia.”
After EG beat Rogue in Week 1, Drippay and his teammates were ecstatic. It seemed that the move was going to pay off, and all the bouncing around, missing home and extra practice had been worth it.
Then the losing started.
Spacestation Gaming swept EG to kick off Week 2, then G2 beat them 3-1 to conclude the week’s action. Cloud9 and NRG claimed 3-1 victories in Week 3, and all of sudden Drippay found himself on a 1-4 sinking ship that desperately needed a lifeboat.
They swept an overwhelmed Splyce team in Week 4, and everything, EG’s season, Drippay’s decision to move, and his standing among the world’s elite came down to a Week 5 match against Ghost Gaming.
“He had to fly out to Calgary the week we played Ghost,” Fireworks recalled. “Drippay was in Toronto so we had to fly to Calgary for a consulate appointment. He had to go do an interview in person where they asked him a bunch of questions.”
Drippay missed two days of practice that week because of the consulate appointment. He came back to Toronto for the season defining match against Ghost, and wasn’t as sharp as usual. EG lost to Ghost and ended in the bottom two of NA.
“It was definitely really difficult for me because I had been at the top of my region in OCE,” Drippay said. “It was difficult not being at the top of NA, but I just had to keep positive. Towards the end of the season when we weren’t getting results, didn’t make LAN and then got relegated it was definitely an emotional time for me, especially being away from home.”
It was just as emotional for his family back in Australia.
“It was heartbreaking for us to watch how the season unfolded for EG and Drippay,” John Den-Kaat said. “Especially given his previous successes with Chiefs, we knew how those losses would be affecting him and of course his teammates. The reality is he was 19, travelling alone to another country, which would have been so much easier if they were winning.”
But they weren’t. Each loss pulled Drippay further and further from his dream. When the Promotion Playoffs came around EG lost in consecutive series and were headed to the Rival Series. It was done. The chorus poured back in. Drippay had moved to NA in vain.
It seems that they forgot to tell him that though. Season 7’s failure only fueled the fire for Drippay,
“Although the season did not go as expected he had the reassurance that statistically he had performed individually really well and gained positive support and feedback from other pro-players and the RL community,” John Den-Kaat said. “This really inspired and motivated him, evident in EG performance at DH Dallas where they finished top four. I am so proud of Matt’s resilience and drive and I was so pleased for CorruptedG and Klassux.”
It would have been so easy to roll over. But Drippay refused. He rallied CorruptedG and Jason “Klassux” Klass and put together the team’s best ever performance at a major. The squad’s DreamHack Dallas performance (and the considerable financial investment the org had made in Drippay) proved to EG that he was worth hanging on to.
When Evil Geniuses announced they were dropping CorruptedG and Klassux they made sure to clarify that they were retaining Drippay. Now he’s the cornerstone of their Rocket League future.
More importantly the move to NA changed Drippay’s life outside of Rocket League. He’s an independent adult now and he owes that to the move. Coming to NA meant an opportunity to prove himself as a player, but more importantly it gave him the opportunity to mature into himself.
“This move has seen an incredible change in Drippay,” John Den-Kaat said. “Matt has matured so much over the past six months, he has become more independent, confident, resilient and content. The latter may seem strange given how the season went but he is where he wants to be and doing what he loves.”
No matter where he ends up, Drippay will always have the assurance that he set his life aside and pursued his dream. That pursuit is molding him into a more well rounded human being. When (or if) he returns to Australia, he’ll return as a more well rounded individual.
There are more opportunities on the horizon. Drippay is looking to land with an RLCS squad and still has every intention of living up to his expectations.
“I feel like I’ve got so much more to prove,” Drippay concluded. “Definitely not thinking about going to OCE yet. That’s for sure.”
Featured image courtesy of DreamHack.
“From Our Haus to Yours”