WE'RE in the home stretch of the season and it's time to talk about Toddy. To put it simply the Hawks skipper has been outstanding over the last six weeks.
He followed a career-high 35 points against Adelaide last weekend with 26 in a badly beaten side against Perth. In a slow grinding match against the Phoenix on Sunday he had his eighth double figure score in as many outings.
With so much talk about the Hawks youngsters of late, it's been easy to gloss over his efforts but he's got just as much out of the club's run without the injured LaMelo Ball.
With Melo such a, pardon the pun, ball-dominant guard, Blanchfield wasn't getting as many looks earlier in the season. He wasn't letting on publicly, but he was also toughing out on an injured ankle.
Even after that sluggish start, at this point in the season, he's only a hair off the numbers he posted in a club MVP campaign in 2018-19. If his form continues he'll likely surpass them.
One easily forgets he's just shy of 280 NBL games...at 28. The number comes in the absence of a college career but it's staggering given his age. Tim Coenraad recently played his 300th game at 34.
Coming into the season, many pointed to Toddy as the key. In a roster that had a vast gap between it's veterans and young-guns, Blanchfield is truly in his prime. It poses the question as to how he wants to spend it.
There's been plenty of praise for the Hawks 'young' roster of late. Perth coach Trevor Gleeson added his voice to it unprompted following his side's win over Illawarra on Friday night.
"Can I just say Flinny's doing a fabulous job coaching [through] all the drama, changing imports, injuries. They were undermanned and just played their hearts out," Gleeson said.
Credit to him, he didn't need to say it. He's not alone either but, when you cover every Hawks game and presser as your columnist does, it's starting to get tiresome.
Sunday Dech and Emmett Naar deserve every bit of praise they've received, but they're 26 and 25 respectively. The average age of the roster that played on Sunday was 27. It's not as young as some people assume.
Injuries have been a huge factor, but in a national league teams are still measured on wins and losses. The Hawks are 5 and 17. That fact wasn't lost on Blanchfield speaking after Friday's loss to Perth.
"We come in and work too damn hard every day to not reward ourselves with a win," he said.
"That's the most disappointing thing from my side of things, we've got to start rewarding ourselves. We've got five wins and people are saying 'oh you guys are playing well, you guys are close'.
"It's not good enough. [Winning's] our job, it's what we're paid to do. The good thing about this group is no one's dropped their head, everyone's in a hundred per cent, but we've got to start rewarding ourselves.
"I'm sick of people saying 'you guys are playing really well, you guys are fighting hard', it's not good enough. We're a professional basketball team and we need to start converting wins."
That, in a roundabout way, brings us to our point. If this is a rebuilding year, what will next year be? One hopes a vast improvement but who knows.
Whispers abound that a change in ownership is a certainty (watch this space). What effect could that have? More pertinently, how many rebuilding years should a player like Blanchfield need to sign up for?
His contract stipulates another one. We could be putting two and two together to make five - us pen-pushers are prone to that - but those comments got us thinkin'.
There's nothing to suggest Blanchfield's more broadly unhappy. He's a small-town boy at heart and has spoken often about his love of Wollongong. He's also an absolute quality individual and as low maintenance as star players get.
However, as we stated from the top, he is in his prime and any pro athlete worth their salt wants to utilise that as best they can - not just financially, but with success.
It's obviously a consideration for the likes of Naar and Dech et al, but it's a more pressing one for Blanchfield. A stint in Europe is far from beyond him, he'd also be a handy addition to a championship-ready NBL rival.
He's much more than that to Illawarra, he's the rock. He's the club's captain and remains absolutely essential to its long-term success.
When the time comes, it better come to the table with a plan for that. As he hinted at on Friday night; near enough won't be always be good enough for him.