It’s taken him nine seasons and two clubs to get to 100 games, but the “footy gods” have been kind to Riley Bonner as of late.

In his own words, his journey has been “a different one”; longer and windier than someone like Callum Wilkie’s whose career has been nothing but an upward trajectory, but one which has been made all the more meaningful with all its added twists and turns.

Bonner’s delisting from Port Adelaide at the end of last season after 93 games was the bolt from the blue he didn’t see coming, and at the time looked to be the end of his days at the top level. So much so, that the 27-year-old was considering spending 2024 playing for his SANFL club, West Adelaide, had he made the call to stay in South Australia.

The 100-game dream was dashed; a fact completely secondary in the wake of his axing from Alberton. But then the Saints - and footy gods - came calling. There was the chance for another shot at AFL level as a pre-season draft pick-up, and one Bonner seized with both hands.

There’s been no divine intervention from that point on. Bonner’s locking down of a spot in St Kilda’s defensive end after an unmissable pre-season has been the product of hard work and dedication to make it back to the top; this week’s 100-game milestone against his old side just the sweetener on top of a promising start in new colours.

“I’m proud, obviously being delisted at the end of last year to where I am now to doing it against my old team as well. There’s something in that,” Bonner told

“Personally, an achievement of mine was to try and play Round 1 and then stay in the side and put my best foot forward. Fortunately enough I’ve done that.

“Once I was in the team, I knew (the 100th) was Round 7 in Adelaide against Port. I’ve had a few close mates message me already, a little bit of banter between the old teammates which I’ve enjoyed. But I’m just keen to get out there and play footy.”


Football is funny in both its unplanned poetry and the way things can fall into place in the best way possible. Inside and outside of football, that’s been the case for Bonner.

His partner, Georgia, wanted to move to Melbourne in pursuit of her career, and although the return to the ‘Westies’ in the SANFL was at the time on the cards, he knew he was going to be spending 2024 in Victoria.

The decision lined up perfectly as the Saints' interest in the discarded defender intensified, and after a quick medical and tour at RSEA Park, Bonner knew he wanted to call it his new home.

I fell in love with it straight away. I thought if I can get somewhere, this is the place. I’ve loved every minute since.

- Riley Bonner

He’s been taken in by the faithful, his teammates new and old and AFL Fantasy pundits alike since his eye-catching performances during the Saints’ pre-season, earning a well-earned berth for Round 1 before holding his spot in the side right up until tonight’s milestone game against his former side.

“I feel I’ve settled in quite well. Being a bit more mature in years makes it probably a bit easier,” Bonner said.

“Changing to a different structure and a different way to play footy has probably been one of the harder things, but knowing a few guys in the backline already in Wilks and Dougal (Howard) has made it quite easy to fit in, to listen and learn.

“They’ve helped me along the way as well and I can’t thank them enough. It’s just good to make new friends and come into a team that didn’t really know much about me. 

“It’s a bit of a clean slate in a sense to put my best foot forward straight away, but it’s been great so far.”

Riley Bonner on the eve of his 100th game. Photo: Chris Nice.

In true defender fashion, Bonner isn’t making a big song and dance out of his own personal milestone.

Instead is the approach that first landed him at St Kilda and then saw him through to a century which in time he’ll be proud of: put his best foot forward on Friday night, and the rest will take care of itself.

“The milestone’s definitely something that I’ll look back on eventually, but I’m just enjoying the week so far, training hard and just getting ready for what’s ahead,” Bonner said.

“Making it in Adelaide in front of family and friends, it’s a good achievement but hopefully there’s bigger things in the future.

“Against the old mob too, it’ll be pretty cool back home in front of family and friends. I’m keen to just get to Friday and get it all done.

“I guess the footy will do the talking.”