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The best bars for the AFL finals

Time Out Melbourne’s best bars to watch the AFL finals…

Photograph: Graham Denholm

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 passionate 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 tap beer and reasonably priced food. Oh, 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 our best gastropubs for a meal.


The Plough Hotel

Footscray’s Plough Hotel might be a clean-cut gastropub, but that doesn't mean they're not super passionate about the Western Bulldogs. Just look at the way they've painted their exterior wall in Doggies colours – it's a beautiful thing. 

In addition to having a fantastic selection of Victorian craft beers and a great pub menu, the Plough will be hosting a big screening party to cheer on the red, white and blue.

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Railway Hotel Yarraville

If you needed further proof that the west is losing its collective mind over the Grand Final, then look no further than the Railway Hotel in Yarraville, which has been painted red, white and blue from top to bottom. Naturally, the pub will be putting on a huge screening event, with doors opening at 11am.

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Station Hotel

Earlier this year, Station Hotel re-opened after a fire, better than ever. The pub is still famous for its top-notch steaks – and also for their passion in supporting the Western Bulldogs. Head down for the kick-off at 2.30pm for a screening event and get ready to cheer your loudest.

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The Crafty Squire

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. Melbourne.

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Imperial Hotel

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 White Rabbit pale and dark on tap. Melbourne.

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The Duke

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 supports. So this year, they're turning into The Duke of Sydney, and are turning up the screens to the max to play the big match. Doors open at 7am, with breakfast available. Get in, Swans fans.

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The Rose

A true Melbourne institution even after its renovation, 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

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 plenty of TVs that show multiple games during the home-and-away season.

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Carlton North

Forester's Beer and Music Hall

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 pizze you can handle and a 4am license on weekends means a long night of celebrating. 

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College Lawn Hotel

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

On the Thursday prior to the big game (September 29) the College Lawn Hotel will be running its annual Sportsman's Lunch. For $110, you get a two-course lunch and beverage package, with a line-up of guest speakers which includes former AFL great Liam Pickering, plus panelists Jack Riewoldt, Glenn Archer and Terry Wallace. What could be better?

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The Palace Hotel: 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.

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South Melbourne

Middle Park Hotel

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.

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Middle Park


The Corner Hotel

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.

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The London Tavern Hotel

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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Beer DeLuxe: Hawthorn

They make it easy to enjoy the Grand Final at this refreshingly old-school pub: pay $65 and you'll get a deluxe 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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How about a pub with an outdoor area?