Stingray Sibba now a Dolphin

By Jonty Ralphsmith

Overlooked 2022 Beaconsfield draft prospect Mitch Szybkowski has settled at the Frankston Dolphins for the 2023 season.

In between a three-week block at Essendon, and handful of sessions at Casey, the former Dandenong Stingray has spent all of pre-season in the Dolphins VFL program, signing on last week.

“He’s part of the furniture with the other midfield boys,” said Frankston coach Danny Ryan.

Ryan believes the 18-year-old will complement the Dolphins midfield well.

The club has former North Melbourne rookie listed Will Fordham, and Trent Mynott and Connor Riley who have both spent several seasons playing senior footy, along with younger talents in Colby Nayna and Lachie Riley.

“He’ll work on his midfield craft, bodywork and contest-to-contest running and that’s the area that was fed into us – (for him) it’s about getting fast feet and breaking away from stoppages,” Ryan said.

“He’s a smooth mover, he’s got good foot skills and in traffic he’s a good size and we want to develop the rest of his game so he’s going to play some wing and halfback.

“With the ability to use the ball like he does, we’ll round out his game, it’s almost come to Frankston for ‘finishing school’ in some ways.”

The Dolphins have produced a strong crop of AFL-drafted talent in recent years, with Gold Coast forward Brodie McLaughlin, Fremantle ruck Liam Reidy and Melbourne youngster Kye Turner all calling Kinetic Stadium home before finding a spot at the top level ahead of this season.

Ryan’s men also effectively saw former Brisbane player Mitch Cox drafted from the program – he spent a pre-season at Williamstown before the Lions picked him up – and Richmond’s Tylar Young started his VFL journey at Frankston before moving to the Tigers VFL list, and graduating to the AFL list.

Szybkowski will hope to be the sixth Dolphin player to reach an AFL list since last pre-season, but the club has sought to streamline his focus.

“If he puts one foot in front of the other and aims to get better everyday, it’ll take care of itself,” Ryan said.

“All I’ve said to him is: ‘that sits in the back of your mind to drive you, that’s the long horizon. The short term horizon is getting a game and playing well and holding form and keep getting better everyday…it’s small steps but if he does all of that, (clubs) will notice him’.”

Meanwhile, fellow 2022 Stingrays Justin Davies and Harrison Collopy have also joined the Dolphins, Davies training currently training with the forwards and Collopy out long-term with Osteitis Pubis.

Frankston-listed Noble Park forward Blake O’Leary is still several months from playing after requiring hip surgery following his starring performance for Steve Hughes’ men in last year’s premiership.

Ryan indicated Jackson Voss, who has become a mainstay in the Dolphins’ best 22, may play higher up the ground in 2023, while Bailey Lambert will continue in his forward role.