Jack Billings and Zak Jones are another step closer towards making their returns to senior level after making it through Sandringham’s 47-point win over Frankston this afternoon.

Billings (23 disposals, five tackles, one goal) played predominantly has a half-forward in his first game back from a pre-season hamstring setback – coincidentally against the same side he had 54 touches against in his last VFL outing in 2018 – while Jones’ (20 disposals) opening half was spent primarily on-ball before rotating through the forward line in the second half.

The vocal Billings had 10 of his 23 touches in the final term after being put into the midfield, with he and Jones combining on several occasions to waltz towards a comfortable 15.9 (99) to 7.10 (52) victory.

03:03 Mins
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VFL | Billings marks successful return with Zebras win

Enjoy Jack Billings's standout VFL performance for Sandringham

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But the pair’s prospective return to St Kilda’s line-up may come with an added hurdle, with Ryan Byrnes pushing his name up into selection contention after dominating as a high half-forward with a terrific 25-disposal, three-goal showing.

The Zebras’ pulsating seven-goal start – two of which came off Byrnes’ boot – set them up for the remainder of the game, with a steadying three goals from veteran Sam Dunell maintaining their lead without having to shift gears.

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Byrnes’ first came from an opportune intercept as the Dolphins attempted to switch the ball across half-back, but a final-quarter slice of brilliance from the pocket sealed the deal on his impressive senior audition.

Ryan Byrnes was superb, backing up his best-on-ground performance from last weekend. Photo: AFL Photos.

Frankston only managed to come within 20 points after quarter-time despite working their way on top of the forward-half battle in patches, but untimely fumbles and errant set-shot kicking stood in contrast to Sandringham’s swift transitions and clean use.

The only down note came with a suspected leg injury to Jack Bytel (17 disposals, six clearances), who was close to Byrnes for best-on-ground honours before going down in a tackle in the shadow of three-quarter time.

Mitch Owens alternated between the forward line and midfield for a two-goal return from four shots on goal, Max Heath and Chris Carey split ruck duties to promising effect, while the backline unit led by Tom Highmore was rock solid down back with 21 possessions and nine marks.

Highmore, Darragh Joyce (14 disposals) and Jarryn Geary (23) – playing exclusively as a defender opposed to previous weeks split between the wing and backline – had little issue in blanketing Frankston’s offensive, many times gliding into contests unopposed to pick off entries.

Zak Jones was a consistent presence in his second VFL game of the year. Jones missed last week's match after entering AFL Health & Safety Protocols. Photo: AFL Photos.

Byrnes backs it up to push selection squeeze

Ryan Byrnes has arguably covered the most flight miles this season, but it hasn't worn him down as his past two outings have shown. Despite landing in Melbourne last night after being a travelling emergency for St Kilda in Cairns (and the week before going from Canberra to Sydney), Byrnes was sensational with 25 touches, six clearances and three goals to arguably better his standout 34 disposals from last weekend. Unlike last week in which the 20-year-old played as a pure midfielder, Byrnes spent most of his day against the Dolphins as a half-forward, only lining up for four centre bounces. While all eyes were understandably on Zak Jones and Jack Billings for this afternoon's game at Wilson Storage Trevor Barker Beach Oval, Byrnes proved that they aren't the only horses in the selection race.

Bad luck for Bytel

All was tracking well for Jack Bytel this afternoon. He was a consistent influence at centre bounce and stoppage and was well on the way towards another commendable display before a routine tackle ended in injury. Bytel was assisted from the field by trainers late in the third term, and although able to weight-bear on his right leg, was unseen for the remainder of the day. The up-and-coming on-baller has been a regular contributor in Sandringham's matches this season, averaging a tick under 25 disposals and six clearances per game prior to today's encounter.

Jack Bytel lays injured after being brought to ground in the twilight stages of the third term. Photo: AFL Photos.

Forwards play mid, mids play forward

A rotating forward line against the Dolphins was employed brilliantly by Jake Batchelor's side, with almost all of its on-ball brigade spending extended periods up forward to keep the scoreboard ticking over. Mitch Owens was among the most influential in the hybrid role, snaring two goals from four shots on goal after taking part in 17 out of 25 centre bounces, while Ryan Byrnes (three), Matthew Allison (two) and Jack Billings each impacted the scoreboard. Zak Jones also spent a considerable amount of time inside the forward half after the major break before rounding out the game on-ball.

SANDRINGHAM  7.1  9.4  12.7  15.9 (99)
FRANKSTON  3.2  4.6  6.7  7.10 (52)

: Byrnes 3 Dunell 3, Allison 2, Owens 2, Billings, Carey, Lohmann, Lowe, Riordan
Frankston: Begley 2, Burton, Duman, Nayna, Stern, Walker

Sandringham: Byrnes, Highmore, Dunell, Owens, Jones, Billings, Bytel, Geary
Frankston: Mynott, Fordham, Duman, Rendell, Duman, Reidy, Stoddart

12:53 Mins
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VFL | Round 6 Mini-Match: Sandringham v Frankston

Extended highlights of the Zebras and Dolphins VFL clash in round six

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