Their unwavering friendship on The Block NZ is seeing them through their gruelling renovation, but when Hamilton dads Andy Murdie and Nathan Ross first met over a decade ago, the boys didn’t exactly hit it off.
In fact, building apprentice Nate reckoned the happy-go-lucky firefighter who had just started dating his sister-in-law was a bit of a slacker!
“I’d heard the girls chatting about him and I thought he was going to be a douchebag because it seemed like he was trying to swoop in and steal the limelight as the favourite son-in-law,” says Nate, 33.
“When he turned up, I was doing some gardening outside. He walked right by me, briefly said hello and didn’t even offer to help out. But looking back, he was probably just nervous as he had the daunting task of winning over my wife. Fair enough too – you have to impress your girlfriend’s sister!”
Fortunately, the hostility didn’t last long and the classic Kiwi blokes – who gelled over surfing, snowboarding and hunting – became great pals.
Their bond was a huge relief for Nate’s wife Serena, 32, and her big sister Caroline, 34, who married Andy, 38, just seven months after their first date.“Family comes first, so it was important to us that Andy easily fitted into our little unit,” says Serena, who wed her teen sweetheart Nathan 14 years ago. “But straight away, we all knew he was a keeper.
“You could see he adored my sister and was making such an effort with the family. It couldn’t have worked out better for Caroline and I. The boys love getting the kids out together as often as they can, which gives us plenty of child-free sister time for lunches and manicures.”
Indeed, for these hands-on family men, despite the stresses of the Three reality series, their biggest challenge is being separated from their wives and kids.
“The Block’s hard, but nothing compares to the guilt you feel for not being there for your family,” says Andy, who’s dad to Jett, eight, Willow, five, and Chilli, two.
“Being a father is my biggest achievement. I’m working two jobs to try to keep us afloat, but hopefully this sacrifice pays off so when it’s all over, I have a bit of money to ease off and spend more time at home.”
And Andy’s wife Caroline credits our very magazine for bringing them together. When they met through mutual pals 11 years ago, the blonde beauty had recently split from her partner of seven years and had her eye on two men.
“One day, Andy and I were hanging out and I was doing a quiz in Woman’s Day about which male celeb would be right for me – and Andy played along with me,” says Caroline, who tied the knot on Andy’s family farm in Ohakune in 2008.
“I thought not many guys would play these silly little games, but Andy was different. He was up for anything and I was sold. He’s really the most amazing man. He’s an incredibly attentive husband who treats me and the kids amazingly. He’s involved in every aspect of their lives.”
For Nate and Serena – who have two kids, Eli, eight, and Sadie, five – their love story began when they were in the same class at primary school in Hamilton. Nate confesses to having a crush on his wife’s best friend back then, but when they reconnected as teens at a church youth group, he only had eyes for Serena.
“We knew we had something very special after all those years – and we still do,” says Nate, who married Serena at the tender age of 19.
“We had a beautiful friendship that blossomed very quickly into a relationship and although we were young, we were madly in love and marriage felt like the right step.”
“When you know, you just know,” adds Serena, “There’s no secret to our 14-year marriage. Getting hitched at 18 had its challenges – we definitely grew up quite quickly – but in those crucial years, we matured and developed as a couple. It’s bonded us for life.”
Early favourites, Andy and Nate remain focused on the competition, but they are counting down the days until they can reunite with their better halves. The boys are hoping their stylish do-up on Auckland’s North Shore will earn them enough money to whisk everyone off on a joint family getaway to the islands.
But their lovely ladies have other ideas – they want some time off.
Serena laughs, “Normally, Caroline and I would sit down and watch The Block together, but since they’ve been gone, we’ve had no babysitters. We are both so proud of the boys, but we are owed some serious childcare hours!”
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