IN Sunday’s win over the Crows, there were not too many standouts for Port Adelaide in an even performance, but if you were going to pick a handful who performed better than others, Riley Bonner would likely be among them.
Coming into this season, Bonner has been best known for his run off half back and penetrating left foot kick.
It is those attributes that have seen him move up onto the wing with some success in the pre-season so far, including Sunday’s 71-point win at Noarlunga, where the 24-year-old had 27 disposals, five inside 50s, 15 marks and a total of 447 metres gained to finish as the game’s second-highest ranked player.
Bonner played his 50th game late in 2020 and is eyeing off plenty more, whether that’s at half back or on the wing.
“I’d love to get a few more on the board,” the West Adelaide junior told portadelaidefc.com.au.
“I like to see myself as either playing half-back, wing or wherever Kenny wants me to play.
“Wherever I can use my attributes to help the team, if that’s wing or half-back, I guess we’ll see how we go.
“I’ve definitely played a lot of wing as a junior but I guess if that’s where they see me fitting in, then I’m happy to play there and take it with both hands.”
The arrival of Aliir Aliir from Sydney and the drafting of Next Generation Academy talent Lachie Jones has seen pressure for spots in the backline increase and the coaches have challenged players to learn to play another role to add to the team’s versatility.
Bonner said the extra defensive options have had a positive impact on the group.
“I think you can really tell the standards have lifted at training,” he explained.
“Blokes are flying around, going for marks left, right and centre.
“The backs are really gelling together but also that toughness for spots is making everyone train a lot harder on the track as well, which has been good.”
Bonner said he expected Jones to make his AFL debut in 2021, likening the first-year backman to a young Ollie Wines in terms of his size and readiness to play at the level.
He said the teenager was the most impressive of Port’s long list of young talent.
“I think Lachie Jones has come in with that big body, sort of like Ollie Wines when he came in,” Bonner said.
“Similar sort of traits – he can run, he can jump, he’s really strong around the ground.
“He’s built like a man and he definitely plays like that too so I think everyone will be able to see him take it with both hands and he’ll probably be playing early, so watch out for him.”
Bonner and his teammates are enjoying a four-day break and will return on Friday to tune up for the opening round of the premiership season.
Port plays North Melbourne at Marvel Stadium on Sunday 21 March to open its campaign.