It may be footy finals time, but there's not a helluva lot of footy happening at the holy footy mecca, the MCG, just yet.
Those interstate teams have rudely snatched most of our matches away by daring to finish above the Victorian ones on the ladder, making going to the match difficult for all but the most fanatical (and flush).
So where are you going to watch it? Nervously from behind a cushion on the couch with a six pack and some dips and chips? Or at a classic corner Melbourne pub, over parmas and beers where you can cheer (or jeer) at the screen with your flock?
The pub, of course. Here are five of the best. Bookings are recommended if you want to sit, but like me, you might be too anxious or excited for such formalities.
1. The Great Northern Hotel, Carlton North
Built in the 1880s, this sprawling old pub has seen a thing or two, and a footy crowd or a thousand, many of whom spilt in before or after VFL matches at Princes Park when that was still a thing. Today, it still ticks all of the boxes: big all-weather dog-friendly outdoor area with lots of seats and a big screen. A large lounge area with multiple screens and tables for groups from two to 20, and a 'locals' bar with a pool table, and somewhat inexplicably, Freo Dockers paraphernalia over the walls. Don't let that put you off, this place is the real deal, with juicy chicken parmas the size of your head, many craft beers on tap, and friendly staff who handle big crowds with relaxed ease.
644 Rathdowne St, Carlton North, phone (03) 9380 9569 gnh.net.au
The Rose may have been refurbished but has kept its unabashed identity as a footy pub. Photo: Supplied
2. The Rose, Fitzroy
Ah The Rose. It ain't what it used to be, many locals will tell you (including myself). But many would argue it's better since ditching the sticky carpet and $10 rissoles and mash. It's had quite the makeover, with gastropub grub and some shiny new fixtures, but the footy focus remains, with heaps of HD screens, high tables, a raucous crowd and the always endearing (unless it's not your team) blast of the winning club's song at the final siren.
406 Napier St, Fitzroy, phone (03) 9417 3626 therosefitzroy.com.au
Beers in the beer garden at the London Tavern Hotel in Richmond. Photo: Joe Armao
3. The London Tavern, Richmond
Its proximity to the mighty 'G makes this big, old fashioned pub the perfect spot for a Dusty Martin debrief before or after the game. But if your team should be playing further than four drop punts away, it's also a cracking spot to watch them. One of the biggest beer gardens in Melbourne is also home to one of the biggest screens with all-weather options and sitting and standing room. Snaffle a table in the lounge if you need a little comfort by an open fire, or for a bucketlist Melbourne experience, jostle for a spot among the diehards in the main bar while sipping Carlton Draught and yelling at players who'll never hear you. Trust me. It's a Melbourne footy pub thing.
238 Lennox St, Richmond, phone (03) 9428 6058, londontavernhotel.com
The Imperial Hotel has a rooftop bar to watch the footy from. Photo: Supplied
4. The Imperial Hotel, Melbourne
This slice of Spring street is home to some of Melbourne's coolest spots, including City Wine Shop, Siglo, The European, and Spring St Grocer. The Imperial will never be one of them. But don't let that put you off, it's character and characters are all part of its charm. A recent renovation has dragged it into the 21st century, underrated rooftop bar and all, where you can watch footy on the big screen as the city twinkles behind you. Or find a table or stool downstairs and join in the chorus while grazing on classic pub food. The eggplant parma for mine.
2-8 Bourke St, Melbourne, phone (03) 9819 0062 bourkestreetimperial.com
The All Nations Hotel in Richmond resplendent in yellow and black, with Ron Williams, a local and lifetime Tigers' fan. Photo: Eddie Jim
5. The All Nations Hotel, Richmond
If Tigerland was, in fact, a pub, this would be it. During the fateful 2017 finals series it literally turned yellow and black in deference to its beloved Richmond Football Club, and we all know what happened next. But if you're not a Richmond fan, fret not, it's still a warm, welcoming pub with a cracking beer garden that does the simple things very well. Nab a spot at the bar - yes that's probably Mick Molloy next to you - and soak up the atmosphere over a pot or two and some classic pub food. It's the front bar of your fantasies, for real. And it almost leaves you liking the Tigers. Almost.
64 Lennox St, Richmond, phone (03) 9428 1564 allnationshotel