Murrays Beach residents Tom McLoughlin and Doug Buchanan have known each other for 40 years. In October, the pair decided they wanted to extend their friendship to others.
The two retirees run a weekly meeting group for men at the Lakehouse Cafe in Murrays Beach. They say the Monday catch up has “no agenda, and nothing is required”.
“It’s just a chance for guys to sit around and have a coffee and have a chat," Mr McLoughlin said.
"All it costs is a cup of coffee and a bit of time, and we have a laugh."
Mr McLoughlin’s stepson Wayne Taylor began a similar group in Mooloolaba, Queensland, in September, coining the name “Average Joes”.
Mr McLoughlin said an incident in his family prompted him to bring the idea to Lake Macquarie.
“Last year my wife got sick and the women of Murrays Beach were wonderful. They cooked meals for us, did everything or us,” he said.
“Women do this so well. I thought there’s got to be blokes in Murrays Beach that are the same way.”
Mr McLoughlin and Mr Buchanan put a post on a community Facebook page, advertising an Average Joes meeting in October.
“Eight guys showed up. And it’s grown every week since. Last week we had 17,” Mr McLoughlin said.
“Guys don’t normally do this, and a lot of guys here are retired and don’t quite know what to do with themselves," he said.
“If mental or physical health comes up we talk about it but it’s not the focus. We talk about anything and everything that’s going on.
“One guy will raise something and someone in the group will say, 'I’ve dealt with that before.'"
Mr McLoughlin said men in Murrays Beach were now asking for a meeting to be held outside of work hours.
He encouraged anyone interested in attending, or beginning their own group, to contact the Average Joes Facebook page.
"We’re not psychologists, we’re not doctors, we're just average guys who want to connect," he said.
The friends say they have gained a lot from the weekly event, including a growing sense of community.
“I love Mondays. I just can’t wait to go down to the cafe and have a yarn,” Mr McLoughlin said.
“The best thing is we’ve seen big changes in the group since October. It began with very polite talk, now it’s raucous laughter," he said.
"You see the guys moving from knowing each other briefly to becoming pretty good mates, and that’s the Aussie way."
“I really enjoy hearing their stories,” Mr Buchanan said.
“Everyone’s got a story to tell and they don’t often get to tell it," he said.
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