A couple of years ago Andy and Deb Saunders couldn't have imagined their life to look the way it does now.
Now household names with their faces on television screens across the country, Taree's power couple want to tell kids of the Manning "if we can do it, anyone can."
"I was always a huge fan of The Block, and still am. I pestered Andy for years to apply but he had always said no," Deb said.
"The year they had put the call-out for contestants for 2019, I asked him again and he said no, again."
But at 11:15pm on the Friday night before applications closed at midnight, Andy asked "'You know that Block thing, why don't we do it?" recounted Debbie., "And so we got it in before midnight and the rest is history."
"That was the epitome of last minute," joked Andy.
You can't even imagine how amazing, but also how difficult it was.- Deb Saunders reflects on their Block experience.
They received the call up soon after and went straight to auditions in Sydney and Melbourne to do challenges with cameras constantly following them. "None of that goes to air but it was really just to see how we handled ourselves," Deb said.
"To get through that was huge", Deb said, "and to get on the biggest Block series ever was just unbelievable.
"You can't even imagine how amazing, but also how difficult it was."
Andy and Deb were "team green" in The Block 2019 experience and said they felt support from people in the Manning from the very start.
"The other contestants were constantly asking us 'What is going on! Because there was a constant sea of green out there" Deb laughed.
"I said to them, all you have to do to get that love is to come from Taree. We really felt it."
Since then, the couple has been admired for their personas and their hard work by people all around the country, resulting in brand partnerships, advertisement features, and their involvement in the new Renovate or Rebuild series.
However, Andy and Deb said it all couldn't have been done without the support from their family and friends in the wider Taree community. "And want the kids in the Manning to know that anything really is possible."
Never let anyone tell you (that) you can't do something for any reason, but especially because you come from a country town because country kids have got what it takes.- Deb Saunders
"There is a lot of really talented people here with big hearts and if we can do it, honestly anybody can, and more than what we have done," Deb said.
"Never let anyone tell you you can't do something for any reason, but especially because you come from a country town because country kids have got what it takes."
Andy described Taree as full and jampacked with talent and people who are hungry to get out there and change the world.
"We back each other and we back ourselves. Even though we have gone through a lot of tough times in the last few years, we have really come together strong," Andy said.
"I love Taree for that matter."
When Andy isn't starring on television shows, renovating homes or juggling life with their four children, he spends his spare moments performing as a comedian.
"Comedy took a fairly big hit during COVID," Andy said. "I had a lot of online gigs."
He admits while he is grateful to be able to do online comedy performances, it was "difficult" not having people laugh and instead type their responses to his shows.
"It is better to come off a stage and say 'man I had those guys in stitches and cracking up' than it is to come from an online gig and say 'you should have seen these guys texting," Andy said.
"I had them absolutely texting their fingers off," he joked.
"It is definitely a different way of doing things in a comedy space."
Andy has his first on-stage gig back at Brisbane Powerhouse at the end of October (COVID pending), which sold out to around 750 people.
And though life for Andy and Deb seems exhausting, it doesn't stop there.
The couple has their own online digital series transforming houses, called DNA of Design, beginning with the renovation of two houses in the Gold Coast Hinterland.
DNA of Design will be similar to The Block, Deb said, "but not with all the crazy timeframes."
"The first house is in full swing. All the selections are almost finalised for both of the houses, we have selected everything from the floor up."
The series has been in planning for about seven months with hold-ups due to COVID, said Debbie, but is expected to be revealed in early 2022.
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