But of course it was Irwin who had the last laugh, becoming a huge star in the United States and around the world with his show Crocodile Hunter which was seen by more than 500 million people in 130 countries.
I still remember meeting a pint-sized Bindi with her mother Terri Irwin at the 2008 Logies ceremony, less than two years after she tragically lost her dad. The nation mourned Steve along with the Irwin families, the sight of little Bindi reading at her father’s memorial service seared into the collective consciousness of an entire generation.
Just 18 months later Bindi was named best new talent at the Logies, and during one of the ad breaks I spotted the little girl and her mother “working the tables”.
As the duo came by my table I got up to offer my congratulations. It was a table filled with relative nobodies towards the back of the room, but that didn’t deter the Irwins who gladly stopped after I said hello.
Bindi locked her gaze on me as I asked how it felt to win a Logie at such a tender age – she was only nine years old.
Her tractor-beam eyes fixed on mine and without any hesitation, and seemingly without even blinking, she launched into a six-minute monologue, full of Oprah-style “live your moment” affirmations about being “positive” and how “awesome the bush is” and that Australia boasted some of the most “fierce and wonderful animals in the world” and that winning a Logie was a “great honour for me and all the work we do at Australia Zoo”.
Sure, it was an intense performance, but it was impossible not be impressed. I certainly did not feel like I was trying to coax your average 9-year-old into a conversation.
Looking on with an equally fixed gaze was Terri, and while I got the impression Bindi had rehearsed what she told me over and over under her mother’s watchful eye behind the crocodile enclosure at Australia Zoo, it was still an impressive speech for any kid, let alone one who lived in the public eye and had suddenly lost her dad not that long ago.
But to be honest I doubted Bindi and the extended Irwin family would remain in the spotlight, given how fickle fame and the public’s memory can be. Boy, how wrong was I.
Eight years later and I found myself writing about Bindi yet again, this time as a 17-year-old who became a household name in the United States in her own right after smashing her way to victory on America’s Dancing With The Stars in front of 14 million cheering fans.
And now, having just turned 21, she is in the news once more, this time announcing her engagement.
Her boyfriend of almost six years, Chandler Powell, got down on one knee in the middle of Bindi’s Island – an animal habitat she designed in the heart of Australia Zoo – to propose on her birthday.
And there was baby brother Robert, 15, hiding in the bushes wearing camouflage, capturing the precious moment on his phone so she could share it with her 2.5million Instagram followers around the world.
There is no denying that our favourite little bush baby Bindi is all grown up.
Crikey! Who would have thought?
Andrew Hornery is a senior journalist and Private Sydney columnist for The Sydney Morning Herald.