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Twelve Melbourne Pubs to Hit Before, During or After the Game

Whether it's to celebrate, participate or commiserate, these Melbourne pubs will be there for you post-game.
By Leisha Kapor
September 25, 2019

Twelve Melbourne Pubs to Hit Before, During or After the Game

Whether it's to celebrate, participate or commiserate, these Melbourne pubs will be there for you post-game.
By Leisha Kapor
September 25, 2019


Whether it's to celebrate, participate or commiserate, these Melbourne pubs will be there for you post-game.

Footy finals season is almost over, folks, which means either celebratory or commiseration beers are in order. The 2019 AFL Grand Final is imminent and plans need to be made. Whether you're a fiercely loyal Richmond supporter, a fresh-eyed and passionate Giants fan, your team got knocked out by one of the two so you're aggressively barracking for the other, or you just like to enjoy a few beers with your mates, you need to lock in those Grand Final Day plans, stat.

Thankfully, there's no shortage of footy-loving pubs in Melbourne, so you should be able to find a bar that's close to the game (or home) and won't take three trams and a bus to get to. Here's our pick of the top spots around town for gearing up before heading to the ground, shouting at the screen during the showdown, or celebrating/commiserating after the fact.


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    Since way back in the 1860s, the Cricketers Arms Hotel has been refreshing sporting fans and players before, during and after a game. In a prime Punt Road location, the pub is just a hop, skip and a jump to Richmond Station, the MCG and the wider Melbourne sporting precinct. This one has everything you could want from a traditional pub: a pool hall and sunny deck on the second level, a function space with a private bar and smokers’ room, a beer garden splattered with footy murals, arcade games, classic pub grub, TVs for catching all the action, and a warm and cosy public bar complete with a fireplace and plenty of cricket memorabilia.

    What’s the deal? Adjacent laneway Tanner Street will be closed for a big ol’ street party from 8.30–9.30pm, with brekkie, lunch and dinner on the menu. The Tigers’ most loyal will be meeting here for a few beers before the game and to party after — so if you aren’t going to the ‘G, this is the next best thing.

  • 11

    The Exchange has a monopoly on cosiness and is perhaps the pick of the bunch in Port Melbourne. It’s a place where you can get all snuggly and watch the game — a real plus if game day is a chilly one. An inviting facade, warm interior and fireplace coupled with a whole heap of meal specials means you won’t want to leave (and a $20 Sunday roast never goes astray). A proud feature of the Exchange is showing AFL games live so you can rest assured it’s got your best interests at heart. Come for pres, durings or afters.

    What’s the deal? While the Tigers take on the Giants in this year’s GF, the Exchange is slinging $10 pints of Hawthorn Pale Ale, $5 glasses of bubbles and $20 parmas. Or the all-inclusive bottomless brunch package is $60 a head for footy fave eats and drinks from 12–3pm. Tickets are up for grabs here.

  • 10
    Bodriggy Brewing Company

    The recently opened Bodriggy Brewing Company in Abbotsford has space for you and your mates — and all of their mates as well. The brewpub has space for 400 punters and 64 taps along the bar will keep everyone hydrated. The huge warehouse space has been decked out with organic and salvaged materials, including old balustrades from the MCG framing the toilets — sporting history is in its bones, so Bodriggy is sure to be the spot to sink a few cold ones when you can’t make it down to the ground yourself.

    What’s the deal? For its first GF, Bodriggy is promising to play the game live on two big screens for multiple vantage points. There’ll also be a raffle with a bunch of prizes to be won and proceeds going to the Wurundjeri Council, plus $5 tinnies of Speccy Juice Session Ale and DJs spinning tunes well into the evening.

  • 9

    Carlton North is known for its poky little drinking places. The Great Northern is not one of them. It’s a pub for pub lovers who like to watch the footy and really know their beers, and it has a great big beer garden for maximum game day atmosphere. Boasting 21 taps and no contracts with the big dogs, the bar serves a regular rotation of craft beers including Mountain Goat, Moo Brew, Balter Brewing and Stone & Wood, making it a prime place to go for a pint during footy finals.

    What’s the deal? Get in early when doors open at 9am to secure a spot in the coveted beer garden, and to score a $6 tinny and stubby holder from Tasmania’s Moo Brew. Two pop-up food stands will be pumping out bacon and egg rolls for early arrivals, and a barbecue lunch from noon.

  • 8

    This recognisable corner pub is more than just one of the best live music venues in town. After a refurb a couple of years back, the spot gained a lovely indoor-outdoor rooftop space, overlooking the Richmond Station train lines. The space has an air-conditioned area for when its hot, a heated deck for when Melbourne does its thing and a big smokers’ area. Add to this the beloved bandroom and front bar, a private bar and function space, and wheelchair access to all of it, and the Corner Hotel has pretty much all bases covered.

    What’s the deal? There’ll be 14 screens (including a megatron) spread throughout the venue, including in the bandroom, on the rooftop, in the front bar and the car park, which will all be open from 9am. Plus, the usual pub grub, burger trucks, family friendly games and a post-game party with DJs in the bandroom and front bar. If 2017 is anything to go by, this will get rowdy.

  • 7
    The Coopers Inn

    This heritage-listed CBD venue has a bunch of different function spaces, a kitchen pumping out quality pub fare (including vego, vegan and gluten-free options) and a main bar with 75-inch TV screens and surround sound, for primo sport watching on a Saturday afternoon. The Coopers Inn is a bit of a home away from home for supporters of non-Victorian teams (shockingly, they do exist), somewhere you can gather with like-minded fans and celebrate your love for the outsider. It’s where the Melbourne Giants Supporters Group will be gathering before Saturday’s stand-off against Richmond, so if you’re looking for a sea of orange when all you’re seeing is yellow and black, the Coopers Inn is where you need to be.

    What’s the deal? First, relive the nail-biting prelim at 3pm on Friday, September 28. On Saturday, doors open at 8am and GWS fans can get themselves a free breakfast from 9–10am. Sip $8 pints while a trumpet player pumps out the Giants team song, before the group marches down to the G at 1pm. The party will continue until 3am, with food and drink specials, live acoustic music and DJs.

  • 6
    Welcome to Thornbury

    Once a used car yard, Welcome to Thornbury now has the space to cater for everyone you know that’s even mildly interested in sport. The 4000-square-metre space caters to hundreds (if not thousands) of punters hungry for a feed, a few beers and a spot in front of a big screen on game day. There’s an enormous beer garden, several bars serving beer, wine and cocktails, a rotating roster of food trucks, arcade games and plenty of space inside if that’s your jam. Plus, dogs are not only welcome, but actively encouraged. The dream.

    What’s the deal? This year Welco to Thornbo is selling pre-game boozy brunch tickets for $70 a pop (here), which will get you unlimited beer, mimosas and espresso martinis from 11am–2pm, a burger and guaranteed seating in front of one of many screens. The venue also has DJs from 11am, post-game live entertainment and a giant screen in the truck yard.

  • 5

    If you can’t have a live view of the sporting action, watching it on the big screen against the backdrop of the Yarra is probably the next best thing. The Boatbuilders Yard is right on the harbour at South Wharf, making it an easy trip to the MCG if you want to stop by for a beer on your way to the game, or a great spot to set up for the day to enjoy a craft beer or a drop from the extensive wine list.

    What’s the deal? Everything is bigger at The Boatbuilders Yard on Grand Final Day, there’s a big screen in the big beer garden, big barbecue platters for lunch (designed to feed four hungry mouths for just $25), big games and a big handball competition. Walk-ins welcome, but we think you’ll need to get there early to nab a spot in one of six viewing zones.

  • 4

    Located just across the river from The Boatbuilders Yard, The Wharf Hotel’s asymmetrical interior makes it another killer option for a drink in the sun while you watch the game. With leather bar stools, fireplaces and a plant-filled deck, there’s no lack of nooks and crannies to tickle your drinking fancy, no matter the weather. And with the bar boasting a range of local and imported beers, spirits and cocktail jugs, you won’t find any problem with The Wharf’s drinks menu, either.

    What’s the deal? Catch the game on one of eight plasmas or the massive riverside screen — ideal for Insta pics no matter the result. There’s also face painting, a handball competition, live music after the game and beer specials, including $30 Furphy “megajugs” and $40 two-litre beer towers.

  • 3

    The former home of the Great Britain Hotel, this Church Street space reopened as Harlow at the beginning of 2019. Offering a little something for all occasions, the pub now boasts a ground floor bar and dining space, a sprawling split-level beer garden and a neon-drenched basement bar. With room for 250, the dog-friendly courtyard comes decked out in festoon lighting and lively street art, ideal for watching a game with some mates. The Richmond location also makes it an easy stop for drinks before or after heading down to the MCG, and the moody basement bar is primed for a boogie if your team wins and you need to celebrate into the night.

    What’s the deal? Pop in from 10am for $15 breakfast burgers, watch the Tigers take on the Giants on one of seven screens across three levels, and get down, win or lose, with a DJ playing tunes after the game.

  • 2

    In the heart of Johnston Street, The Rochester Hotel (better known as The Rochey, these days) is a favourite among locals, and for good reason. On top of the roaring fire and welcoming atmosphere, the place serves up authentic southern Indian food with Australian wines, craft beers and tasty cocktails, and everything is as ethically sourced as possible. If you’re looking for somewhere to make your local, and not just during footy season, this might be the friendly neighbourhood joint for you.

    What’s the deal? As the Rochey says: “If ya gonna do the Grand Final, do it right”. In that vein, enjoy brekky rolls, homemade pies and wings, $8 Bodriggy pints and $6 mimosas all day, plus $2 pots from first bounce until first goal each quarter. If you’re still standing for happy hour from 6–9pm, you’ll get $6 pints and $10 cocktails, while a DJ cranks the tunes from the final siren until 3am.

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    The Ascot Lot

    Sporting fanatics are certainly not contained to the inner city — for those in the north west, The Ascot Lot is a winner. Previously a deserted car yard, the Mt Alexander Road space is now a colourful food truck park offering delicious food and ice-cold refreshments to be enjoyed in its drinking hall or bright beer garden. Each weekend, The Ascot Lot plays host to some of Melbourne’s most adored food trucks, including Poke Time, Two Fat Indians and Nuoc Mama’s. The lineup changes weekly, with dinner and drinks served Friday through Sunday.

    What’s the deal? Coopers will be flowing on Grand Final Day this year, with a pop-up bar selling tinnies for just $5 and jugs for $15. Entertainment is covered, too, in the form of DJs, a pre-game handball competition, spot prizes and live music.


Top image: The Boatbuilders Yard.

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