ILLAWARRA coach Rob Beveridge says the signing of Todd Blanchfield on a three-year deal is part of a broader strategy to secure the club's long-term future against raids from bigger clubs in free agency.
The Hawks were stunned when free agency opened with Perth luring Nick Kay and Mitch Norton – who developed into Boomers while in Wollongong – west on lucrative deals.
With free agency likely to become more competitive in coming seasons, Beveridge said the club needs to take a long view, as they have with the Blanchfield deal and that of rookie recruit Emmett Naar, who's also been locked down for three seasons.
“For the last few seasons, for a number of reasons, we've had guys on one or two-year deals,” Beveridge said.
“The bigger clubs are throwing around ridiculous money and we just can't compete in free agency.
“We can't afford to get in bidding wars with other clubs so we've basically looked to lock in the best young talent and build our team around them over the next few years.
“We're obviously looking to prop them up with some veterans and get that good blend of youth and experience with some guys still in their prime.
“At the end of the day, I love developing players and as a club that's what we're going to do.”
At just 26, Blanchfield already has more than 200 NBL games to his name and is one of the most lethal catch-and-shoot players in the league.
Beveridge has every confidence the former Melbourne United and Sydney Kings swingman can take his game to the next level in Wollongong.
“To start with, he's just a tremendous guy,” Beveridge said.
“I've known Todd for a long time and we went away to China [with the NBL All-Stars] last year. From a character perspective he's first class.
“He's spent the past couple of seasons on two very good teams and he's probably been the third, fourth, fifth cog.
“He's a high level player with an incredible skill set and I think this is a chance for him to redefine himself and go beyond being that role player.”