The Best Pub to Watch Your Team: Part 2 – Collingwood, St Kilda and Fitzroy

This is the second part of my series looking at the best pubs to watch your footy team play at. If you missed Part 1, you can check it out here, or keep reading to find out where to watch Collingwood, St Kilda and Fitzroy games.

 

Collingwood

The Pies are the biggest team in Melbourne. You can walk into pretty much any pub when they’re playing, and chances are the game will be on and there will be people watching it. But there are still a few pubs that are more Collingwood-centric than others.

The first one is The Rose Hotel in Fitzroy. Now, the Rose isn’t a specifically Collingwood pub. If fact, they have a lot of old Fitzroy memorabilia around the place (and Richmond?), and on any given weekend fans from all Melbourne teams head there to watch their games. That said, when I asked Pies fans which was the best pub to watch them play at, The Rose was the most popular response by far. I also read an online forum that mentioned that at last year’s grand final viewing at The Rose, Pies supporters out numbered Cats supporters fifteen to one. Most people heading to The Rose to watch a game book a table in advance – a wise move.

But the Rose is by no means the only Collingwood haunt in town. The Yarra Hotel on Johnston Street in Abbotsford is definitely a Collingwood stronghold. In fact when Collingwood played their first game at Victoria Park the players used the pub, which is only 100 or so meters away, as their change rooms. The pub is a bit of an enigma today though. It doesn’t have a website and it isn’t always open at times you’d expect (weekends for example). Let me tell you what little I know about it though. About two or three years back I did a pub crawl through the area to familiarise myself with many of its pubs. I didn’t think The Yarra was still open for business but we walked past on the off chance. As luck would have it, it was open. We walked into a large, open, grungy room about half full of people…every single one of them wearing some kind of Collingwood gear. It was a little like a scene from a movie. Everyone turned to look at us as, well, we clearly weren’t regulars. We had a beer and left…and I haven’t been past it since. However, I did come across a forum that talks about watching games there. If I were looking for a passionate crowd that was 100% black and white, The Yarra is the first place I’d go. If you’ve watched games there please tell us what it’s like in the comments section below.

The Yarra Hotel, Abbotsford

The Yarra Hotel, Abbotsford

The next pub has a pretty long back story. The same pub crawl that took me to The Yarra also took me to The Carringbush. It was my first time there (but I’ve been back heaps since, it’s one of my regulars these days) and when planning the crawl I kept thinking “I’ve heard of The Carringbush before somewhere”. My mate Joh piped up as we were about to walk through the door. “Rex Hunt sometimes refers to Collingwood (the team) as The Carringbush, doesn’t he?” This sounded vaguely familiar. Ever since then I’ve assumed that the Collingwood Football Club must have been formed at the pub, but when reading up on it I discovered the real story.

The Carringbush Hotel, Abbotsford

The Carringbush Hotel, Abbotsford

Back in the early 1900s there was this Collingwood character called John Wren. Wren owned a “tobacco shop”, and by “tobacco shop” I of course mean illegal betting operation. His full story is really interesting, but a little long and off topic to go into in too much detail here. However, Wren was known to go into the Collingwood dressing rooms after games and “shake hands” with their best players. And when I say “shake hands” I of course mean slip them some cash for a good game (this was pre salary cap days obviously).

John Wren's Tote

John Wren's Tote - Photo courtesy of Narrelle M Harris (http://melbourneliterary.sutromedia.com/)

Inside The Carringbush

Inside The Carringbush

Where does the pub come into this? Well, after WWII Frank Hardy wrote a book about Wren called Power Without Glory. However, worried about the repercussions of his story, he changed the names of all places and people. Instead of taking place in Collingwood, the events took place in…Carringbush. This protected the author from being sued, but everyone knew who the characters really were. The Carringbush Hotel has been known as The Friendly Society’s Hotel for most of its history, but was renamed The Carringbush in 1984 in reference to Hardy’s novel.

Bar at The Carringbush

Bar at The Carringbush

Enough back story though, what about the pub itself? It’s clearly a footy pub. There’s footy memorabilia everywhere in this beautiful, traditional local. I remember it being mostly Collingwood focused, but when I last went back I noticed an old Carlton Draft advertising poster with Carlton players on it (so it can’t be too hardcore Collingwood). You can watch the game on plasmas in the front bar, or the middle bar leading out to the beer garden and dining room (which does great food by the way). One note about The Carringbush: it isn’t the biggest venue. I’ve not watched a big game here but I imagine it’d fill up pretty quickly. In fact I’d say when the Pies play it’d probably be standing room only.

Finally, I want to mention The Grace Darling Hotel on Smith Street, though with a huge disclaimer. You see, this pub has a long history with Collingwood FC. The first ever committee meeting was held there, at which the decision was made to form a footy club to compete in the Victorian Football League. You would think this place would go off on game day given this strong historical tie…well, when I asked where people watch Collingwood games nobody mentioned The Grace Darling. They may show the footy, they may not, I’m not really sure. The pub doesn’t really seem like a footy venue upon entry – it feels like the restaurant is the main focus of the pub these days. If anyone does know more about watching the footy at The Grace Darling please leave a comment below.

The Grace Darling Hotel, Collingwood

The Grace Darling Hotel, Collingwood

I’ve also heard The Yorkshire Stingo is pretty Collingwood focused. Can anyone confirm?

 

Fitzroy

Fitzroy is another hard one. There are a ton of great pubs that tip their hats to The Roys by proudly displaying old photos and guernseys, but I don’t know that I can recommend any of them as “the pub” for watching the Lions play. Having said that, let’s look at some of the pubs that immediately come to mind.

Firstly, The Napier. I know I say this pretty much every post, but this is one of my favourite Melbourne pubs. The front bar should be heritage listed. I’m not joking, I don’t want them to change a thing. If anyone so much as dusts one of the shelves in this place I’m dobbing them in to the historical society. The venue is wall-to-wall Fitzroy gear – the front bar is a shrine to the Roys. My only reservation about recommending The Napier to watch a game is the size of the place. There’s one TV in the front bar and you would need to be sitting in the right place to have a good view. As always, if you’ve watched a game here before, let us know what the experience was like in the comments below.

The Napier Hotel, Fitzroy

The Napier Hotel, Fitzroy

The Napier Hotel Bar - Photo courtesy of Miss Adriennely - www.adriennely.com

I mentioned The Rose when talking about Collingwood venues. I had to, it was the most popular pub to watch the game amongst Pies supporters. However, Fitzroy supporters have a right to claim The Rose at their pub. After all, it is in Fitzroy, and the walls are decked out with Roys gear. This really is your best bet if you want to watch the Lions play at a pub…just hope you’re not playing Collingwood as you will be well and truly outnumbered.

I’ve also heard The North Fitzroy Arms had a very old school Lions feel to it. Has anyone watched them play there? The Standard has heaps of old Fitzroy memorabilia decorating the bar, but do they even have a TV? It’s a brilliant pub, but I get the feeling showing the footy isn’t what they’re about these days. What about The Lord Newry? I can see that place being gold for watching a game…though I haven’t been there for ages. Finally, does The Albion Charles in Northcote still have a Fitzroy flavour to it? The Fitzroy Social club used to own this amazing building back in the day, but I get the feeling a lot has changed since then. If you know the answer to any of these questions please comment!

 

St Kilda

Saints fans, I’d really love to tell you about this little pub decked out in Saints gear where you have to book a table when you’re playing inter-state, and the crowd is 100% red, white and black. That fact that I can’t tell you about this is not due to my lack of trying. I’ve had a thread up on the BigFooty forum for the last few days and well over 100 people have viewed it, but no one has replied. I hope someone reading this can prove me wrong…if you can please comment below. I just don’t think you have your own pub.

However, I don’t want to send you away empty-handed. There are two places I would head to watch a Saints game with other fans.

The Village Belle Hotel, St Kilda

Firstly, I’d try The Village Belle Hotel in St Kilda. This pub isn’t Saints focused; it’s more a total slut of a pub to all things sport. AFL, NRL, EPL, A-League, cricket. The Belle will sleep with, I mean show them all. This has its advantages. Projectors and plasmas are slapped all over the joint. Plus, actually being in St Kilda, you would think a few other fans would head there to watch Saints games.

Inside The Village Belle

Inside The Village Belle

Saint's Guernsey at The Village Belle - Melbourne Pub Culture

Saint's Guernsey at The Village Belle

The only other thing I can say is that I know I’ve seen a St Kilda guernsey at The Middle Park Hotel before. Not sure how many people head there specifically to watch the footy, but with all the sporting gear adorning their walls you’d think they’d show games somewhere.

 

I’m afraid that’s all I’ve got. However, I plan to constantly re-visit these posts. I hope they become a real resource for people wanting to know the best places to watch games. So if you know something I don’t, please leave a comment.

In my next post – part three in this series – I’ll tell you where to watch The Western Bulldogs, Carlton and the Melbourne Dees.

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3 Comments

  1. Shaun
    Jun 15, 2012

    The Yarra has now closed its doors sadly for the regulars.
    Apparently the building will be sold and end up as apartments I’m sure.

    • Helen
      Mar 25, 2013

      The Yarra is now open again :) No apartments

      • Brian
        Mar 25, 2013

        Funny, someone else just told me this on the weekend. Is it the same as it was before or has it been renovated?

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