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Dan Grida has discussed his relationship with Todd Blanchfield ahead of the veteran's 400th NBL game.

03 Mar
6 mins read

Todd Blanchfield has become one of the most universally loved players in Australian basketball over his 399-game career, and the NBL journeyman is set to register his 400th appearance in the competition on one of the biggest stages possible – Illawarra’s do-or-die Play-In Game against the New Zealand Breakers.

Blanchfield has become an icon of an entire era of NBL basketball after he became one of the competition’s best young talents in 2009, and he burst onto the scene in the 2014-15 season under Shawn Dennis.

An All-NBL Second Team nomination and Most Improved Player in that final season with the Crocodiles earned him a move to Melbourne United, and he’s also since turned out for Illawarra, Sydney and Perth.

Blanchfield is in the midst of his second stint with the Hawks and has played a crucial guiding hand in bringing them back to competitiveness and post-season basketball under Justin Tatum.

Dan Grida is the only other player who is still at Illawarra from that 2018-19 roster, however unlike Blanchfield, he’s remained with the club the entire time.

Grida discussed his relationship with Blanchfield ahead of the veteran forward’s milestone game.

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Todd Blanchfield celebrates a three while Dan Grida (11) cheers in the background in 2018.

“I was a massive NBL fan growing up, I was a huge Perth Wildcats fan actually which is funny. I remember watching Toddy all the time and he would always torch the Wildcats at RAC Arena. He was always killing us, his jumper was beautiful, and my mum absolutely loved him before I ever even played with him,” Grida said.

“When I was a kid one of my teammates – Andrew Ferguson – was at the AIS and went on one of those Boomers qualifying trips with them. I remember asking them all about it and he said he’d roomed with Todd Blanchfield, and he said he was just the most wonderful guy which was really cool to hear since he’s such a good player.

“Then he signed with the Hawks in 2019 which was my rookie year coming out of the AIS. We played the same position, so it was funny with Bevo (head coach Luke Beveridge) because the way our rotations worked, I don’t think I played a second with Todd in my whole rookie year. I’d sub in for him and would take his off minutes – he’d play 30 minutes, I’d play 10.

“I was always rooting for him and he’s taught me so much, and about so many little things I wouldn’t have even thought about from what he’s picked up over the years. From a teaching and basketball standpoint he’s been unbelievable for my game and helping me become a better player, but off the court he’s even better. He’s just the best dude ever, I don’t think anyone’s ever had a gripe with him.

“This is the third year I’ve been with him and everyone just absolutely loves him. One day at practice he got a bit angry with me and he pushed me but that’s about it, and I remind him about that every day.”

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Blanchfield attempts a layup past Adelaide's Jarrid Frye whilst playing for Townsville in 2013.

When you hit a milestone like 400 NBL games, you’re no longer one of the up-and-coming youngsters in a team – and it’s no different for Blanchfield.

At 32 years of age he’s the elder statesman of this young, underdog Hawks side. Only Kyle Adnam and Tyler Harvey join him on the north side of 30 on the entire roster.

Grida himself is still just 25 years of age, and he praised the influence Blanchfield has brought the Hawks’ playing group over what’s been a hectic second half of NBL24.

“Toddy is absolutely the man, everyone here loves him and I’m super happy he came back to the Hawks. He was a fan favourite when he was here the first time and we’re stoked to have him back. He’s the best,” Grida continued.

“He brings everyone together, he’s a real team guy, he’s super unselfish, he’s always joking around and picking on the young guys – he’s great in that space –, but he also helps us get wins. He’s a great competitor, he’s still a lights out shooter, he’s great at practice, he’s never hurt, and he’s been a big part of our success this year.

“He was playing NBL when a lot of us were in primary school, he’s gone through it all and he’s played in some massive games. Both him and Kyle (Adnam) have been in some huge and important games over the last few years, so they bring more of a level head to the group. We have a lot of young guys raring to go, but they’re like a steadying hand for us.”

Blanchfield will become just the third active player in the NBL to reach 400 games behind Jesse Wagstaff (471), Chris Goulding (436) and Tom Abercrombie (428) – and all four, incidentally, are involved in this season’s Finals campaign.

The importance and do-or-die nature of Monday’s clash against Abercrombie’s Breakers means the celebration of Blanchfield will likely take something of a backseat, but Grida asserts the added milestone moment will only prove to get the team even more locked in on victory.

“When guys have milestones, everyone gets geared up for it,” he said.

“A few years ago we had Timmy Coenraad’s 300th game, we were terrible that year and we played the Kings at home. Timmy comes in and makes his first four shots and we ended up beating the Kings – it was like our fourth win of the year on New Year’s Eve.

“We love those moments for these guys and we definitely try to really get up for those one. I’m sure the team will need no hep getting up for this game on Monday, but having Todd’s 400th is a bit of motivation for us all.”

Blanchfield’s 400th NBL game will be broadcast live on Monday night when the Hawks and Breakers clash in this season’s Play-In Game.

Tip-off will be at 7:30pm AEDT, live on ESPN via Kayo, and Sky Sport in New Zealand.

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Todd Blanchfield career honours:
All-NBL Second Team (2015)
NBL Most Improved Player (2015)
FIBA Asia Cup Gold Medal (2017)
NBL Cup (2021)

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