Melbourne Demons star ruckman Max Gawn has been busy preparing for the biggest moment of his AFL career to date: a whirlwind week of training, much-needed family time and indulging in his pre-game ritual of watching cheesy films ("Freaky Friday with Lindsay Lohan, Big Fat Liar with Frankie Muniz … just some real bad movies," he reveals).
But while making the finals and ultimately, winning the Grand Final is the zenith for any AFL player, Gawn has another goal – courting the culinary world.
The enterprising 26-year-old is set to launch a food truck dubbed the Bearded Jaffle (named, no doubt, for his impressive facial foliage), as soon as things wind down post-season.
"I just love a jaffle," Gawn says, and the concept is as simple as that.
Fitted onto the chassis of a vintage Ford F100, the dark, wood-panelled cabin is being custom-built by Gawn's carpenter brother to accommodate the All-Australian ruckman's six-foot-nine frame.
Gawn plans to park the truck at summer markets and festivals around Melbourne – serving up unadvanced Australian fare and a solid flat white.
The menu will include jaffle fillings such as ham cheese and tomato, baked beans or spaghetti bolognese, and a sweet option, perhaps Nutella and banana.
Like Max, the humble jaffle doesn't take itself too seriously.
"It's just got something more to it than a toasted sandwich," he says.
Gawn's love of cafe culture was instilled in him from a young age, watching his mother run her Sandringham cake shop from the sidelines and, when he was old enough, coming on board as a waiter.
It was here, making coffee, manning the tills and waiting on customers, that he acquired a taste for hospitality – until he was fired by his mother when he decided not to turn up for a Sunday shift.
"I thought it was mum's fault for scheduling me in on a Sunday morning," Gawn maintains.
These days, Gawn pays his penance behind the coffee machine at his mother's cafe in Gippsland, the Olive at Loch, where he can be found pulling shots of espresso on weekend afternoons.
This may seem like an unusual pastime for one of the highest-profile players in the league, but his family hasn't let his fame get to his head.
Coming from a New Zealander household with little knowledge of Australian rules football – "They still yell 'try!' when I score," Gawn laughs – has kept him grounded.
"When I was young, I really just wanted to work for mum. I didn't want to do anything else," Gawn says. "She let me do it and I just didn't get sick of it."
Today, it looks like mum is quite happy to work for him instead – with plans to supply her son's favourite hedgehog slice to the Bearded Jaffle.
The footballer has another food project in the works – a Camberwell wine bar with an "Old World vibe" set to open in early 2019.
In partnership with Richard Donovan and Craig Tate (of Saint James in Malvern), East End will feature a wine-focused list and concise pizza offering.
The new property is in a promising location, situated opposite the historic Rivoli Cinemas on Camberwell Road.
"Camberwell has been crying out for a little wine tasting bar or something like that," Gawn says.
He hopes the venue will breathe some new life into an area with a lot of potential, but few places to have a drink.
The tall ruckman likes Tall Timber cafe in Prahran. Photo: Pat Scala
Max Gawn's Melbourne go-tos
Favourite pub to watch the footy
The Rising Sun in Richmond. I can be there and sit in the corner and not get annoyed.
Favourite coffee spot
It would be rude of me not to say [my business partner's cafe] Saint James. I also like Hobba in Malvern.
Hobba again and Cheeky Monkey in Richmond. I'm pretty basic to be honest, I would just get your two eggs on toast with the sides. My favourite breakfast at the moment is a dish at Tall Timber, which is a cauliflower-something, get that with a couple of poached eggs and it's unbelievable.
Mum's match-winning soup?
Gawn's mother Sandra is pretty sure her pumpkin soup has the ability to determine footy scores.
From the small kitchen of her former cafe in Sandringham, only a 10-minute drive from St Kilda Football Club's training ground, Sandra would make 80 serves of soup for the players to eat after training every week.
The 2009 season was a good one for the Saints. The team enjoyed an unprecedented run of consecutive wins – until the one week they failed to place their usual order.
"That's the reason they lost the Grand Final," Sandra says. "Because they had soup every week until Grand Final week, they cancelled their soup and they lost."
With her son's team making it through to the semi-final to face Hawthorn next Friday, one can only hope she's got plenty of soup at the ready.