War veteran and Crossfit coach launch Sawtell men’s group

Jamie Symes and Keaton Devine workout at the CrossFit gym in Sawtell.

A WAR veteran and a CrossFit coach have banded together to launch ‘Sawtell Men’, a free support group for men involving regular exercise on the beach then coffee and a chat.

The purpose of the group is to better each other’s lives by encouraging great conversations and meeting up on a regular basis for a workout/walk/run or surf at Murrays Beach, Sawtell.

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One of the men behind the idea, Keaton Devine, served in the military for nine years, including in Afghanistan.

“I was pretty bad when I got out,” he told NOTA.

“Several mates had committed suicide, then my dad died the next day after one funeral.

“I left and I was struggling to adjust.

“I could easily drink two bottles of vodka a day for months and I didn’t get any help, I tried to do it myself.”

His wife contacted some of his friends in Defence to urge Keaton to help himself and got him into Open Arms Veteran Counselling.

She then organised a referral through a GP to a mental health hospital in Currumbin, where Keaton stayed for three months.

He also confided in Jamie, who owns Sawtell’s CrossFit gym, as to what was going on and the help he needed.

Since his return to the area, Keaton has wanted to start up a group for men who are struggling.

“I’m lucky through the Vets as I’ve got this stuff for free – I’m covered.

“It would have cost $2000 a day to go to that hospital, so I am aware that a lot of people don’t have that support or can’t afford it, that’s why we decided to do this for free,” he said.

Keaton is combining previous experience as a personal trainer with his ability to be open and honest about his pain.

“Nine months ago, I was told by my GP: ‘You are going to either die or lose your family’,” said the war veteran.

“When I left the service, I got a tonne of injuries like a broken neck, two shoulder reconstructions, both biceps, snapped elbow – I couldn’t train for two years.

“Covid meant the gyms were shut, and my mental health went real bad and I started drinking.

“I thought I was going to die, my liver was rooted.”

Keaton continues to engage in counselling one hour a week and works out daily.

“Men need a kick in the bum,” he said.

“The hardest part is turning up.”


Keaton and Jamie are two men on a mission.

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