Longtime League of Legends Championship Series jungler Joshua “Dardoch” Hartnett recently announced his return to pro play after a short stint acting as Immortals’ assistant coach, following his time in the LCS. He joined Immortals in June after being released from Dignitas QNTMPAY.
In Dignitas’ video announcing his release, general manager James “Bakery” Baker did not specify the reason for Dardoch’s departure, but he did note that it was unplanned and that Dardoch’s actions “were not in line with what we consider acceptable for a player at Dignitas.”
That stigma has plagued Dardoch through much of his career, with his first LCS gig on Team Liquid spawning a whole documentary based on the disfunction of their 2016 roster. From then on, the narrative of a toxic, conflict-prone jungler followed Dardoch from team to team.
Since his debut, he’s played for seven different LCS teams before his assistant coaching gig on Immortals. However, despite the constant changes, his narrative may not be totally indicative of who Dardoch actually is as a player.
Immortals’ rebuttal of Dardoch’s narrative
Given his reputation as a player, teams might be hesitant to take Dardoch on for 2022. However, there are signs that his stint as a coach might have brought out more of a positive side to the league’s Rookie of the Year in the 2016 spring split. The Immortals staff said Dardoch, as a mentor and co-worker, was a big benefit to the team.
“I didn’t feel any of the bad things that are talked about him,” Immortals head coach André “Guilhoto” Guilhoto said. “There was at least nothing present while he was a coach.”
When asked for a summary of how it was working with the 23-year-old jungler as a first-time coach, Guilhoto sang high praises.
“The thing that surprised me the most is how tainted his public image is related to [our experience with him],” Guilhoto said. “He was always someone very very open-minded and very willing to talk back and forth about everything; he’s someone that was willing to defend his point when he was right and willing to accept when he was wrong without any kind of ego.”
— Immortals (@Immortals) October 1, 2021
Immortals General Manager Mike Schwartz shared the same sentiment, touching on the disparity between his perception of Dardoch before and after hiring him.
“I was initially hesitant about bringing him on,” Schwartz said, “but after having the chance to talk to him, I was impressed how he presented himself and felt confident he could bring what Andre and the team needed to give them a boost for playoffs.”
A return to competitive play
Dardoch has been playing competitively for roughly seven years across seven LCS teams, meaning he’s gained plenty of experience under a wealth of different systems, coaching styles and mentalities. However, thanks to his grim reputation and the somewhat common conception that younger players are a better investment, there’s a very real chance that Dardoch will now struggle to find offers that suit someone of his resume.
In a recent conversation, Furneaux said some teams have taken precautions in conversations around signing the jungler to their team.
“A few teams have effectively said that, ‘We’d like to try and arrange some kind of tryout,’ [or asked to] get VODs over from previous games where he’s been in comms,” Furneaux said, referencing various teams’ desire to see more beyond Dardoch’s gameplay.
However, Furneaux and Guilhoto both spoke highly of Dardoch’s recent history and the new type of growth he experienced as a coach. “I think that a lot of the things that he was able to see from a non-player perspective will probably help him quite a bit if he [returns to] playing,” Guilhoto said.
“He was able to be part of lots of conversations in which he was both giving his point of view and then also taking on someone else’s point of view,” Furneaux added. “They had a lot of back-and-forth about how the role should be played, how Andrei “Xerxe” Dragomir should be utilized in the jungle role. And I think that’s benefited him moving back into his playing career because he sees things slightly differently.”
It’s clear Dardoch learned a lot during his short stint with Immortals that will both contribute to his overall understanding of the game and also his professionalism in a team setting. His time as an assistant coach required him to listen and respond in a way that he hasn’t always had to as a player, and that growth could be instrumental in his place on a new roster.
Dardoch’s options for 2022
In his announcement of returning to competitive play as a jungler for the 2022 season, Dardoch said he was open to play for any region. Furneaux confirmed that, noting three specific regions being considered.
“I’m trying to drum up opportunities for him in the LCS, Europe — as in the collective of the LEC and the top-end ERL teams — and even Latin America,” Furneaux said. “He’s expressed interest in [Latin America] as a region with a big fan base and another set of eyes that he can kind of put to the sword of this narrative of him being a bad teammate or a negative influence on his team over actually being really talented as a player and learning and growing up as a person.”
Europe, though, is the primary target, given Furneaux’s network and history as a coach there for Excel. Dardoch’s likelihood of fitting in well with European esports culture could come into play too. “In Europe, I think there is more criticism within the team to each other,” Furneaux said, “which is often dealt with in a way that is turned into something constructive.”
Though Guilhoto and Schwartz each shared their wishes in having Dardoch return to the team, they also each gave their full support to him in his decision to seek out a jungle position for the next season. “I would love to continue working with him, but I understand his desire to play hasn’t been quenched yet,” Schwartz said. “I wish him the best in his search this off-season.”
Guilhoto went a step further, explaining that because of Dardoch’s skill, he should return to pro play before continuing his coaching career. “I do think that him continuing as a player is still the right call because I think he’s very, very talented and still one of the best junglers in LCS,” he said.
— Immortals (@Immortals) July 10, 2021
The one thing Furneaux made absolutely clear was Dardoch’s strong desire to play again competitively. “He is not in it to just soak up paychecks; he’s not someone who’s in it for any reason other than he really, really loves the game, and he has a talent and a passion for it,” Furneaux said. “Wherever he is, whatever region, it doesn’t matter too much. He just wants that opportunity to prove himself.”