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How to get footy final fever in Melbourne this weekend

It’s Australian football’s Grand Final weekend. So if you’re in Melbourne, get set for the party to kick off.  

By Simon Webster
Published: 29 September, 2017

Australian football – also known as Aussie rules, or AFL, as in Australian Football League – is played right across Australia. But in the sport’s heartland of Melbourne, it’s more than just a game. It’s a religion, an obsession, a way of life. In short, the locals are absolutely mad for it.

There’s even a statewide public holiday this Friday – AFL Grand Final Friday – simply because it’s the day before the end-of-season showdown, the Grand Final. This year’s final – between the Richmond Tigers from Melbourne and the Adelaide Crows from over the border in South Australia – kicks off at the famous Melbourne Cricket Ground on Saturday 30 September at 2.30pm.

If you haven’t got tickets, you’re too late. But not to worry. This week and for the whole weekend, the entire city will be even more footy crazy than usual, which means there will be opportunities galore to soak up all the atmosphere, fun and colour of a uniquely Australian event.

Warm up with a footy festival

AFL Grand Final Live Site, Melbourne, Victoria

Every good footy player – and fan – needs to warm up before a big game. To get yourself in tip-top shape for the grand final, head down to Yarra Park in the days leading up to the main event. The park is outside the Melbourne Cricket Ground (more commonly known as the MCG – or just “the G”), the famous stadium hosting the match, and is home to a Footy Festival from Wednesday 27 to Saturday 30 September.

Food, music, footy and family fun are on the cards. There’s a Live Site, with player signings, games in which you can test your footy skills, and lots of giveaways, as well as a kids’ zone with an inflatable obstacle course among the attractions.

You’ll also get the chance to sample Melbourne’s food scene thanks to a Taste of Football, in which a star-studded line-up of Melbourne food trucks offer everything from tacos to Taiwanese street food to craft beer. Make sure you make the most of these opportunities: it’s important to eat and drink well if you’re going to stay in optimum condition for the days ahead. The Yarra Park Live Site is also the destination for the famous Grand Final Parade.

Join the parade on grand final Friday

AFL Grand Final Parade, Melbourne, Victoria

There aren’t many places in the world where everyone gets a public holiday the day before a game of football. But that’s what happens in the state of Victoria on grand final eve. And quite right, too. Who could possibly be expected to concentrate at work with the big game less than 24 hours away?

The main attraction of Grand Final Friday is the Grand Final Parade, in which more than 60,000 fans wear their colours with pride and line the streets of the city centre to watch players from both teams cruise by in the backs of utes (pick-up trucks) accompanied by marching bands and other roving entertainers.

The parade starts at the Old Treasury Building at midday and ends with the players being presented to the public on stage at the Yarra Park Live Site about 45 minutes later. So head downtown, pick up a scarf, a hat or a jersey (a team shirt) from a merchandise stall, and get those vocal cords warmed up.

Watch the game at a live site – or in a lively pub

Federation Square, Melbourne, Victoria

The Yarra River is a good place to start your match day. Lots of Melburnians use the public barbecues along the river to enjoy a grand final breakfast or lunch, and the Fox Footy Longest Kick event draws a crowd of fans watching AFL stars try to boot a ball across to the other bank.

If you then want to watch the big game on a big screen with some locals, you won’t be short of options. In fact, you probably won’t be able to avoid it. The AFL Grand Final Live Site in Yarra Park is possibly the next best thing to being in the stadium. It’s right next to the MCG, so if you want to be close to the action, this is the right place.

Melbourne’s famous Federation Square is another spot that will draw a fan or two, with its big screen, food stalls and surrounding bars and cafes. Or you might follow a ritual that generations of Melburnians have sworn by, and go to a pub. Just about every pub in Melbourne becomes a live site on final day, so wherever you are in the city you’ll find a party going on.

This year, the pubs of Richmond will be particularly popular. Not only is the neighbourhood right next to the MCG, but the Richmond Tigers are in the Grand Final, aiming for their first premiership in 37 years. Swan Street and Bridge Road, Richmond’s two main streets, will be overflowing with Grand Final excitement, and pubs including the London Tavern, the Swan Hotel and the Precinct Hotel will have incredible atmospheres before, during and after the game – particularly if Richmond win.

Go behind the scenes at the MCG

MCG, Melbourne, Victoria

With a 100,024 capacity, the MCG is said to be the 10th-largest sports stadium in the world – and it will be packed to the rafters for the big game on Saturday. While tickets to the match are sold out, you can still get access to the MCG in the days and hours before and after the game.

Leading up the big day, the G will be open for tours, in which you can get a behind-the-scenes look at this iconic sporting venue and get to grips with Australia’s sporting history at the National Sports Museum. Then, just an hour or so after the grand final full-time whistle, the MCG opens its doors to the public for a free Premiership Party inside the stadium (6pm-8pm). US rock band The Killers will be on stage and the premiership-winning team will be presented to the crowd.

Finally, Sunday 1 October is MCG Open Day, when the public is allowed into the G for free and given access to parts of the ground that are usually off-limits – including the pitch on which the players of Richmond and Adelaide will have performed their heroics just the day before. After a weekend like this, you’ll be an Aussie rules addict for life. 

While you're in Melbourne check out some its best regional restaurants.

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