Professional League of Legends has had its fair share of controversial players, but among them all, current Team Dignitas jungler Joshua “Dardoch” Hartnett may be one of the most abrasive, disagreeable — but talented — players to ever play the game. When Dardoch made his League of Legends Championship Series (LCS) debut on Team Liquid in the spring of 2016, his performances garnered high praise from experts, peers and fans.
Since then, however, he has repeatedly bounced from team to team, and just about every team he has played for has cited a combination of attitude issues, negativity and an inability to work well with his teammates as reasons for his removal. As a result, the LCS fanbase and even many professional players and analysts have almost unanimously agreed that Dardoch’s attitude problems are likely unfixable. Looking back on all of Dardoch’s stints in the LCS, has the community exaggerated Dardoch’s negative reputation, or does the controversial jungler deserve this stigma?
Even though many of the storylines heading into 2016 revolved around the rivalry between the teams Counter Logic Gaming (CLG) and Team SoloMid (TSM) as well as the newly formed Immortals lineup, which featured two superstar Korean import players, Team Liquid surprised the community and became a top contender in its own right despite fielding three rookie players on its starting roster. In the playoffs, the team easily defeated NRG eSports 3-0, and Dardoch’s performance in particular impressed fans and analysts alike. Team Liquid then went on to play an infamous back-and-forth series against CLG, the team that went on to win the playoffs, which ultimately came down to a surprise double teleport play from CLG to narrowly scrape out the win in the final moment of the five-game thriller.
Despite this loss, Team Liquid earned high praise for its top four finish, and the community had high hopes for the team’s continued development in the summer of 2016. However, around this time, the first instances of controversy regarding Dardoch’s attitude began to surface. Prior to the start of the 2016 LCS Summer Split, Team Liquid temporarily benched the star jungler, citing attitude issues during the team’s offseason boot camp in South Korea.
Team Liquid infamously documented its 2016 Summer Split campaign in “Breaking Point,” an almost two-hour production that highlighted Team Liquid’s severe internal conflicts. In this documentary, Dardoch’s contentious personality plays a major role in these conflicts, as the jungler would verbally abuse his teammates and refuse to respect head coach Choi “Locodoco” Yoon-seop’s authority.
His behavior negatively affected the overall team dynamic, which showed both in the team’s practices and in its LCS performances. After an average regular season, Team Liquid lost a lopsided series against CLG and finished in sixth place in the playoffs. Even though the team still had a chance to qualify for the 2016 World Championship via the regional qualifier, Team Liquid decided to remove Dardoch from the roster immediately after the playoffs, which reflected the severity of the team’s inability to work effectively with him at that point.
Despite these clear instances of Dardoch’s misbehavior, many fans believed he would soon find success on another team. After all, despite Team Liquid’s shaky performance, Dardoch himself still put on many strong individual performances throughout that split. Furthermore, while the documentary showed Dardoch’s struggles, it also highlighted many instances of mismanagement from the coaching staff and the organization itself, which led many fans to believe that Dardoch could reform and improve his attitude in a different environment. In addition, Dardoch has always conducted himself professionally in interviews, and his own public reflections about his mistakes and shortcomings convinced fans at the time that he had learned from his mistakes.
Dardoch’s 2017 season had several ups and downs and ultimately showed that his struggles on Team Liquid were not solely a result of Liquid’s mismanagement. He signed with Immortals for the Spring Split, but despite his strong individual performance, the team failed to even qualify for the playoffs. The team subsequently removed him, and revealed that once again Dardoch had struggled to work well with his teammates.
Dardoch joined CLG for the summer of 2017, and while the team got off to a strong start, CLG removed him before the regular season even finished, and unfortunately, the team once again cited Dardoch’s attitude issues as the reason for his removal. After failing to solidify a stable position on three major organizations, many wondered if Dardoch would find another LCS opportunity again. The community no longer considered Dardoch a promising rookie, but rather a deeply flawed player that could not function in a team environment.
Subsequently, 2018 proved to be a pivotal year in Dardoch’s career. The jungler joined the League of Legends team of the esports organization Echo Fox and later claimed that it was the only LCS offer that he had at the time. In comparison to his previous year, Dardoch had a strong showing throughout 2018. Echo Fox placed third in the Spring Split and fifth in the Summer Split, and although the team failed to qualify for the 2018 World Championship, Dardoch had maintained his spot on a major team for two full splits. The team’s reason for removing him appeared to be financial in nature, and did not cite Dardoch’s attitude as a major factor.
Unfortunately, Dardoch did not have the same luck in 2019, as he was only able to play in the Academy League under Optic Gaming. Though the year proved unremarkable, the jungler would then get an opportunity to play for TSM, historically one of the most successful North American organizations, in 2020. The team had high expectations but yielded mixed results, and it finished in fourth place in the playoffs.
The team removed Dardoch before the summer split, and while the community mostly directed its ire toward company president Leena Xu for publicly leaking the roster change, both the team and its players again cited Dardoch’s inability to mesh with the team as the reason for his removal. Dardoch would then join Team Dignitas for the summer, and although the team improved after fielding Dardoch on the starting roster, it ultimately finished eighth in the playoffs. That said, the team re-signed Dardoch for the 2021 season and intends to specifically build the roster around veteran players Dardoch and Zaqueri “Aphromoo” Black.
The fact that so many teams have removed Dardoch for the same reasons, and the fact that in each instance the jungler claims to have learned from those mistakes only to repeat them again, suggests that his problems are not an easy fix and that any team will clearly have to deal with them in order to succeed with Dardoch on the roster. That said, he has proven that with the right team, he can still be a strong player who helps his teams achieve results, evidenced by his year on Echo Fox. It remains to be seen whether he can help propel Dignitas to the top of the league and, if things go poorly, whether he will get yet another chance to redeem himself.