In Cloud9’s NA LCS second playoff match of the 2022 spring split, Australian support Jonah ‘Isles’ Rosario walked onto the stage behind the rest of his team, grinning from ear to ear.
It was his first time experiencing a crowd in his young esports career, and he seemed to enjoy it as the fans welcomed him to the stage. His smile could be seen even as the camera for the broadcast zoomed out to show his opponents at the time, Golden Guardians, entering from behind the scenes.
The 21-year-old support had risen to prominence in the Oceanic Pro League as the world was starting to shut down. He also attended the 2020 League of Legends World Championship, which did not have fans until the grand final.
In only his fifth appearance in the main squad (he previously stood in for the team in LCS Lock In), the Cloud9 Academy player helped his team secure first blood in the series in a fight next to dragon.
He protected his jungler, stunning enemies that encroached on the low-health teammate, and turned around to attack the enemy as Cloud9 went on the offensive to secure two kills and jump out to a solid lead.
“You can actually hear the crowd screaming,” Isles said in an interview with Dexerto. “It’s a really big rush. It’s really exciting when it happens.”
Isles was plucked out of the academy team and given the opportunity to play in front of a crowd after Cloud9 had taken a 0-3 beating in the first round of the playoffs to eventual runners-up 100 Thieves.
The team had performed better in scrims with the Oceanic support and the communication had been more fluid, Cloud9’s coach Maxwell Alexander ‘Max Waldo’ Waldo said in an update before the team’s match against Golden Guardians.
Cloud9 would take the series 3-0 and go on to play Evil Geniuses, the eventual LCS Mid-Season Invitational representative, losing 0-3.
About a week after dropping out of playoffs and getting a taste of the top tier of competition in North America, Isles was told Cloud9 was dropping him from one of the organization’s managers.
Isles dropped from Cloud9 after playoffs
The young player had joined the team during the middle of a global health crisis near the end of 2020 and was dropped about two years later, alongside Park ‘Summit’ Woo-tae and Kim ‘Winsome’ Dong-keon, with little explanation.
“[The manager] told me basically that C9 was looking to make a change and that was pretty much it,” Isles said. “They didn’t give me more information than that… pretty much all they said was they want to make a move, I wasn’t really given any reason as to why directly. I wasn’t debriefed by any of the coaches or anything like that.”
Isles finds himself out of a job right in the middle of the season. He knows that his prospects of finding a team before the summer split are low.
“I think maybe I would have had a better chance to find a team at the end of the year but right now I’m not even confident that I’ll find a team.” Isles said. “Yeah, it’s not the greatest situation so far.”
Cloud9’s CEO, Jack Etienne, said in a tweet responding to fans reacting to a video of Summit that he offered each player up to other LCS orgs for nothing in return.
Zero buyout asked for Summit, Isles or Winsome. I immediately contacted all lcs teams after our season ended to let them know they were available.
— Jack Etienne (@JackEtienne) May 8, 2022
Without a visa, Isles is in a race against time. Unless he finds another team, or job, he will not be allowed to stay in the United States in the coming weeks.
Currently, the support player wants to stay in North America as he has put down roots in the US. He has a girlfriend and a cat, named Penny, that he would rather not relocate across the world back home to Australia. He also has to move out of his current apartment as he can no longer afford it.
“I think this is just the most comfortable place for me to live in,” Isles said. I’m not really interested in moving to Europe unless I was going to play for an actually really good team like an LEC team. But right now I don’t really have a desire to do so over an NA team.”
Before choosing to play in Cloud9’s Academy squad, Isles was fielding offers from other mid-tier LCS teams, including Immortals, FlyQuest and Golden Guardians, at various times.
The then-teenager decided to go to the Academy league after watching fellow Oceanic prospect Tommy ‘ry0ma’ Le struggle to break into the LCS when offered a starting spot in a similar situation with 100 Thieves.
Despite the heartbreaking turn of events, Isles said he doesn’t beat himself up about the decision to go with the best team at the time. Still, he can’t help but wonder how different his career would be if he had decided to go a different route.
“If I had joined a mid-tier team, and I was able to showcase my skill at the time, maybe I would have improved faster playing against better people, maybe I would have played really well on stage and gotten more exposure that way,” he said about the decision in hindsight.
Isles said that he is at an LCS level in terms of his own performance and that, having played scrims with the main team for a short while, he believes he is on part with the best in the league.
His performance in the playoffs seems to back his statements up as he won his lane with his partner, Kim ‘Berserker’ Min-cheol, in a majority of their games.
In his time in Academy, Isles placed first in the 2021 spring split and second at LCS Proving Ground 2021 Spring, NA Academy 2021 Summer Playoffs and Na Academy 2022 Spring.
His relationship with Cloud9 and future revenge tour
Isles isn’t bitter about how he was treated in the end by Cloud9. The infrastructure on the team was better than what he had experienced in Australia, and the people within the organization made the experience great, according to him.
“I will say that the individuals are what make C9 special to me,” Isles said. “It has got nothing to do with org, or management, almost at all to me.”
The former Cloud9 support did say, however, that he thought he should have been substituted in over his main team counterpart, Winsome, well before the playoffs.
“I think that I would have replaced Winsome in like four weeks in at most If people were actually looking at scrims closely,” Isles said. “I think that people were much too hesitant to make a change and the people that have power are not the ones that are the most knowledgeable.”
As for Isles’ future, where he will be playing and whether he will remain in the country, all that is still unclear. If given the chance, though, the Oceanic support won’t hesitate to try to get revenge on the team that dropped him without a reason, which could force him to exit the country abruptly.
“I’m more confident than ever that as long as I get the opportunity to play, I will show people that I’m much better than I’ve been given credit for,” he said.