Mal Chenu enjoys a gentleman's getaway at Melbourne's Crown Towers Hotel.
The face of Hommage spa is looking a little battered this morning. It belongs to champion AFL player and 2007 Brownlow medallist Jimmy Bartel of the Geelong Football Club. Bartel is sporting a massive ruddy bruise on his dial, courtesy of an accidental kiss from a knee in a game against Port Adelaide.
Fronting up for a chat about Crown Towers' Hommage grooming products and spa treatments is probably the last thing he wants to do on this overcast Melbourne morning. But the normally handsome Bartel mans up and speaks highly of the facilities - as you would expect from a paid ambassador - but it is clear from his passion that this bloke's bloke believes it.
Bartel represents the two-day growth brigade with style, has spent his fair share of time in gyms and on massage tables, and attacks the subject like a loose ball in a grand final.
"It's a manly experience, all right, but so soothing," he says. "I had the back sculpture treatment and a facial last week and just got lost for two hours. So much better than my usual painful deep-tissue massages."
As someone whose own AFL career peaked at the age of 12 when I won the highly-coveted best clubman runner-up trophy, I don't share Bartel's experience of elite athlete treatments but I do share his assessment of the back sculpture and essential face grooming. My therapist Juliette explains the procedure, and while I don't understand what she means by "vegetal base, black diamond dust exfoliation, bioactive sea salt mask and sebum balancing lotion", the experience is a relaxing and sensory encounter.
After a $10 million enhancement in 2012, Crown Spa is certainly a pretty flash set-up with artwork, chandeliers and exquisite furnishings. Other Spa for Men options include a jet-lag recovery and recharge and an eye grooming upgrade, and there are body wraps and couples' packages in the indulgence suite. Any treatment of an hour or longer entitles the pampered to unlimited use of the Aqua Retreat, comprising a vitality pool, rain shower, hammam steam room, lounge and pool.
While I didn't have time to indulge in a manicure, pedicure or waxing, it was nice to know they were available if I wanted to man-up in a different direction.
The plush robe and background pan flute music are not necessarily out of the blokey playbook, but two hours, 20-odd towels and a few potions later, I emerge feeling silky, light and ready to pour beer and a Four'N Twenty pie into my freshly opened chakras at the footy.
Any "blokend" in Melbourne has to include a trip to the MCG, be it for the footy, cricket or to see the National Sports Museum. The "G" is one of the world's great arenas and a seething cauldron of passion when near capacity. I watch my beloved Tigers get belted by Essendon (must have been the peptides!), but it is still a great night for a fan of REAL footy, as we AFL aficionados like to call it.
Finishing the night with a couple of cleansing ales at the Crown Casino was another pleasant surprise.
There are plenty of bars, music and food outlets, and lots of people happy to commiserate (or take the piss) about the footy: wear a team scarf - get a conversation.
It just doesn't feel like a warehouse full of pokies as so many do. My 72-square-metre executive suite is everything you would expect from one of the best hotels in the country - floor-to-ceiling windows, superb art deco and Italian finishes, and a TV in the travertine marble bathroom to watch more football while soaking in the huge bath.
The morning after brings bleary eyes and Four'N Twenty remorse. Time for the gym! Crown Towers' facilities are impressive indeed. Bartel tells me the gym is as well-equipped as any hotel gym he has seen, and the range of weights and cardio machines is extensive.
Personal training sessions are available and, for $75, you get a health evaluation, nutrition advice (what do you mean cut down on the pies?) and a workout including yoga and Pilates, if that's your bag. I blow away the cobwebs with a few laps of the 25-metre heated pool under the high ceiling and a solid hands-off inspection of the weights machines.
The Crown Towers and Hommage spa experience made for a great gentleman's weekend south of the border. But I can't help thinking they should have spa treatments for sheilas, too. They'd love it!
The writer was a guest of Crown Towers Melbourne.
Virgin Australia flies direct to Melbourne. 13 67 89, virginaustralia.com.au.
Crown Towers, 8 Whiteman Street, Southbank, offers a range of accommodation options and packages. Executive suites cost from $505 a night. (03) 9292 6868, crowntowers.com.au.
(03) 9292 6182, crownspa.com.au.