The best bars and pubs to watch the AFL finals

Grab a pint and the best seats with a view of the footy action
Photograph: Graham Denholm
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If you can’t get a ticket to the 'G during the finals, the next best place to watch sporting history unfold is in a Melbourne pub packed with supporters. But what makes a great footy pub? A big screen (preferably more than one), good sight lines to the action on screen, a knowledgeable crowd, a variety of beers on tap and reasonably priced food. And if they drop the music and crank up the commentary, all the better.

All that sports-ing making you hungry? Head to one of Melbourne's 50 best pubs for a meal. And if you've got a passion for brews, check out these inner-city breweries

CBD

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The_Crafty_Squire--exterior.jpg
Bars, Pubs

The Crafty Squire

icon-location-pin Melbourne

It's a bit of a beer barn, but who cares when they're dedicated to showing pretty much every sport there is on their many TVs. The full range of James Squires beers on tap helps win us over too. 

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Imperial Hotel
Bars

Imperial Hotel

icon-location-pin Melbourne

Melbourne’s third oldest pub gets packed out on when AFL games are on. They have two massive projector screens, plasmas dotted about, classic pub dishes, and a killer rooftop bar with prime city views.

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The Duke of Wellington Hotel
Bars

The Duke

icon-location-pin Melbourne

Melbourne's oldest pub is serious about the Grand Final. So serious, in fact, that it changes its name and signage if an interstate team makes the Grand Final, thus becoming a hub for interstate supporters. In 2016 the pub christened itself the Duke of Sydney. This year, they're turning up the screens to the max to play the big match. 

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The Boatbuilders Yard
Bars

The Boatbuilders Yard

icon-location-pin South Wharf

Catch the AFL grand final day action with a view of the water at South Wharf. The Boatbuilders Yard can fit up to a whopping 1400 footy fans and they're putting up a huge 4x2-metre screen in the beer garden that will show the footy complete with radio commentary live and loud. Stick around for a barbecue pop-up by Fancy Hank's, and 90s tunes before and after the game. Fancy yourself a bit of a footy star? The riverside pub will be giving away prizes with their handball competition.

North

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Beer pouring at Rose Hotel, Fitzroy
Photograph: Amanda Summons
Bars, Pubs

The Rose

icon-location-pin Fitzroy

A true Melbourne institution and a go-to pub for north side footy fans, the Rose is still one of the best places to watch footy in town. It boasts a great old-fashioned horse-shoe shaped bar, top-quality pub fare, and – this is the real winner – a crowd that knows and loves its footy. 

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Great Northern Hotel
Bars

Great Northern Hotel

icon-location-pin Carlton North

A long-time favourite of footy fans in the inner north, dating from the time when Carlton played at Visy Park up the street. It boasts a huge beer garden with a projection screen, an indoor projection screen, and 10 HD TVs that show multiple games during the home-and-away season. Doors open at 10am on grand final day and best part is, they'll crank the commentary way up so you don't miss a thing.

Time Out says
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Stomping Ground
Bars, Breweries

Stomping Ground

icon-location-pin Collingwood

Head to Stomping Ground's beer garden from 9.45am if you want to get a good spot to watch the footy action on grand final day. Book a spot for the pre-game brunch session ($35) or come later to watch the game on the beer garden's eight screens. The game will also be screened on the front bar's two screens.

Time Out says
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Bars, Craft beer

Forester's Pub and Dining

icon-location-pin Collingwood

The viewing angles aren't the greatest but when the drinking's this good (50 craft beers on tap, anyone?) you'll be hard-pressed to care. Plus, all the wood-fired pizza you can handle and a 4am license on weekends means a long night of celebrating. 

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The Rochester Hotel staff
Photograph: Supplied
Bars

The Rochester Hotel

icon-location-pin Fitzroy

This Fitzroy pub with a ronk'n'roll bent is as into their footy as they are into their killer live music and pub snacks. They're screening games on a big screen and across TVs across the venue. On grand final day, Young Henry's will be on tap and if you book a table the Rochey team will shout you a free jug. Hungry? Get a one kilo bucket of hot wings and a jug for $30 on all finals games. 

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Northcote Social Club
Bars, Pubs

Northcote Social Club

icon-location-pin Northcote

This popular north side pub is better known for its killer live music action, but they're also big for all things footy. Wear your team colours and head to Northcote Social Club's grand final day party, where they will be screening the game throughout the venue and run burger and drink specials for your half-time refuel. Get involved in the $100 meat tray raffle, you've gotta be in it to win it. 

Time Out says

South

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The Palace Hotel: South Melbourne
Bars, Pubs

The Palace Hotel: South Melbourne

icon-location-pin South Melbourne
Footy is integral to the character and culture of The Palace, so it's no surprise it was crowned Best Sports Pub and Pub of the Year at the 2016 Time Out Pub Awards. With its unpretentious nature and excellent pub grub, it's a fine choice on game day.
Time Out says
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St Kilda Burger Bar meat pie burger
Bars, Craft beer

The Grosvenor Hotel

icon-location-pin Balaclava

This St Kilda pub is a little bit classy without betraying that warm pub welcome you want when drinking by the bay. There’s live footy on the screens overhead and on the AFL grand final day they'll be pulling out all the stops with an early happy hour from 11am until kick off. Get free pots of Carlton Draught between the bounce and the first score, and if you're hungry, try the limited edition Greedy Sheedy burger: a combo of the classic meat pie and cheeseburger. If you're not into the footy, you can still get the Greedy Sheedy at St Kilda Burger Bar.

Time Out says
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College Lawn Hotel
Bars, Pubs

College Lawn Hotel

icon-location-pin Prahran

How many screens do you need to watch an AFL final? Prahran's much-loved sports pub has twenty of them. What's more, you're surrounded by a passionate crowd of fans and friendly footy-loving staff. Grab a table from 11am. After the match, there'll be DJs from 6pm.

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Middle Park Hotel
Bars

Middle Park Hotel

icon-location-pin Middle Park

Did you know that the Middle Park Hotel lifted its wooden panels from the Long Room at the MCG? With footy pedigree this deep, you know you're in good hands. They'll be showing the match live and loud, plus doing a $20 pot and burger deal.

Time Out says

East

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The Corner Hotel rooftop
Bars, Pubs

The Corner Hotel

icon-location-pin Richmond

Book a table for brekky on the rooftop from 9am and then hold onto it all day, or head down to the front bar and band room where they'll also be showing the games on their massive screens.

Time Out says
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The London Tavern Hotel
Bars

The London Tavern Hotel

icon-location-pin Richmond

A regular haunt for fans going to or coming from the MCG, The London always has a good footy buzz and its massive beer garden is a real asset coming into the warmer season of spring when finals fever runs hottest.

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Bars, Pubs

Beer DeLuxe: Hawthorn

icon-location-pin Hawthorn

They make it easy to enjoy the Grand Final at this refreshingly old-school pub: pay $70 and you'll get a burger with chips and all-inclusive beer, wine and cider for the entirety of the big game. Afterwards, celebrate your team's win (or party away your pain) with live music from 6.30pm. 

 

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Richmond Club Hotel
Bars

Richmond Club Hotel

icon-location-pin Cremorne

Only a stone's throw away from the 'G, the Richmond Club Hotel is the footy lover's pub that also doubles as a great hang-out spot for drinks after the game. Get in early or book a table to get the best seat with a view of the screen, but there's plenty of room to spread out in the dining room, beer garden and rooftop bar. The after party kicks off from 4.30pm. 

West

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Railway Hotel Yarraville
Bars, Pubs

Railway Hotel Yarraville

icon-location-pin Yarraville

Railway Hotel Yarraville is a great local pub to watch the footy on the west side. You should've seen the pub painted red, white and blue for the Doggies in 2016. These guys turn up the sound so you won't miss a siren while you're busy munching on your mid-game parma. 

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Station Hotel
Restaurants

Station Hotel

icon-location-pin Footscray

The Station Hotel is famous for its top-notch steaks – they come with wedges that are to die for. They're also serious about their footy. Book a table for grand final day or head down early to grab a seat before the kick-off at 2.30pm and get ready to cheer your loudest.

Time Out says
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The Plough Hotel
Bars, Craft beer

The Plough Hotel

icon-location-pin Footscray

Footscray’s Plough Hotel might be a clean-cut gastropub, but that doesn't mean they don't love the footy. In addition to having a fantastic selection of Victorian craft beers and a great pub menu, the Plough will screen the big finals games live and loud.

How about a pub with an outdoor area?

Make the most of the grand final long weekend

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