A spicy new interview has revealed crocodile hunter Steve Irwin was supposed to be Australian of the Year in 2004. It turns out he had the award stripped at the last minute ‘cos of a controversial picture.

The revelation comes from Olympic swimmer Lisa Curry’s new memoir. Back in 2004 she was chair of the National Australia Day Council which appoints the AOTY.

Essentially, she said the council made the call after a pic of Steve Irwin holding his baby son Robert while feeding a crocodile got circulated. I mean, this was 2004 so I don’t think it really went viral as such but there was a lot of public outrage at the pic.

The council spoke with Steve Irwin about the situation and he agreed to withdraw his nomination. Cricketer Steve Waugh was ultimately named AOTY.

“Steve was aware that he’d won because, in those days, it was my job to ring the recipients and let them know,’’ Curry wrote in the book.

“It was so hard to make a decision to take away somebody’s award, which they’d won fair and square.”

The Council all thought that he’d be able to be re-nominated in a few years’ time. But then in 2006, he was tragically killed by a stingray. If you were an Australian kids born in the 90’s and early noughties, Steve Irwin’s death was surely one of your saddest core memories.

“In those days, all the nominations arrived by mail, and one of the letters we received was from a young girl who hoped that Steve Irwin would win Australian of the Year before he got eaten by a crocodile,” Lisa Curry wrote in the book.

“This letter was read out at a board meeting and we had a bit of a chuckle over it at the time, with no idea that Steve would, just two years later, lose his life in tragic circumstances, doing what he loved.”

Lisa Curry told News Corp publications that if the situation happened now, she would make a different call.

“It was such a shemozzle that should never have happened,’’ Curry said.

“Today, I would have just said ‘no, we are going ahead with it’.”

She said they made the decision to please the media and the public.

“These days I’d go ‘No. This is what we are doing. The person deserves it and it’s going to stand’,” she continued.

Curry also said she’d give Steve Irwin the Australian of the Year award posthumously if she could. I’d absolutely back that campaign TBH.

Image: Getty Images / Justin Sullivan