The SIT Zero Fees Southland Sharks will enter its National Basketball League defence with a trio of Australian imports following confirmation today that Illawarra Hawks and former Shark Todd Blanchfield will again link with the club for the 2019 season.
Blanchfield quickly became a fan favourite in 2015, averaging over 21 points and nearly seven rebounds per game as part of the Sharks’ title-winning squad. He dropped a game-high 23 points in the Grand Final win over the Saints and was named in the NBL’s All Star Five.
He returns south with high hopes of a repeat performance this season.
“I’m super-pumped about it. I can’t wait to head back down there. 2015 is obviously a real highlight of my career. The fans down there are the best in the league and so much fun to play for. It’s such a great tight-knit community and everyone supports the Sharks, so I’m really looking forward to it,” Blanchfield said.
The versatile swingman made his name in his home patch of North Queensland, dominating Mackay basketball before attending the Australian Institute of Sport and entering the Australian NBL in 2009.
In his final season with the Townsville Crocs (2014-15) Blanchfield was named in the All-NBL Second team and won the league’s Most Improved Player Award.
Since his 2015 off-season in Invercargill, he has lined up for Melbourne United, the Sydney Kings and is coming off a career year with the Illawarra Hawks this season, where he has averaged 13.8 points on 48 per cent shooting from the field including an impressive 41 per cent from three-point range.
“I’ve definitely had a lot of fun this year with Illawarra and I think it shows when you are enjoying yourself, you play your best basketball,” Blanchfield said.
That ability from beyond the arc was one of the attractions for Head Coach Judd Flavell.
“We needed a knock-down shooter, so when I was looking at imports, I kept think we needed a player like Todd Blanchfield, and we’ve ended up with the Real McCoy.”
“He brings a wealth of experience having played a lot of basketball and having been to Southland before, he’s a known quantity. We’ve got some young guys who are going to be playing important roles for us this year and to be able to off-set that with the experience that Toddy brings is important.”
“On-the-court, he is very versatile, and he can play a number of positions. He’s more than just a shooter. He can get to the rim, he’s got size at 6 foot 7 and he rebounds well. He’s a big guard and in this league, he is a difficult match up for people,” Coach Flavell said.
Blanchfield joins fellow Australian internationals Jarrad Weeks and Mitch McCarron on this year’s roster which Flavell also sees as an advantage.
“I go back to known quantities and when you spend the time I have in the Australian league, these are the guys you see week in week out and you get to know them better than anyone else in the world. As a coach you want to know what you’re going to get, without surprises. Having guys that will quickly transition into the Sharks programme is paramount because it’s a 10-day turnaround from getting everyone together to our first game, so you need guys who understand each other and know each other’s games,” Flavell said.
The 2019 Sal’s NBL begins on Thursday 11 April with the Sharks opening their title defence on Sunday 14 April against the Canterbury Rams at 2pm.
Season tickets, including a special 10-year Anniversary VIP pass, are available now from ILT Stadium Southland. For more information visit www.sharksbasketball.co.nz/tickets.