The elephant in the room during their exchange was, of course, his close bond with Terri, 56.
In the years since Steve’s tragic death, both Russell and Dickie have played an important role in the Irwin family’s lives.
Terri told a local publication earlier this year that Russell was “the very first person” to contact her to offer his condolences after Steve’s passing in 2006 and revealed he has since “stepped up so much” for her family.
“Russell … is such a good person … a very good friend to our family, and I actually really do love him because he loved Steve and they were such good friends,” Terri told The Courier Mail.
Meanwhile, Dickie has also been vital to the Irwins.
Trusted by the family’s inner circle, the veteran reporter has been the Irwins’ go-to for major interviews regarding Australia Zoo as well as their personal projects – and he in turn has been open in his admiration and support of Terri and her children Bindi, 22, and Robert, 16.
Despite Dickie’s unsuccessful attempt to probe Russell about his personal life, a source alleges to New Idea there’s undoubtedly some truth in the repeated whispers of a link between Russell and Terri.
“Russell will spend the rest of his life protecting Terri and her children; he feels like it’s his duty to Steve,” the source claims to New Idea.
“They were so close in the early years of being Aussies who were famous in America, it was like a brotherhood.”
While the pair are adamant that they’re simply close friends, the source is certain that the continued presence of the Gladiator actor has impacted on Terri’s dating life.
“Sometimes it’s like he’s almost trying to fill Steve’s shoes, though – he gets very territorial if other men hit on Terri and usually does a great job of menacing them away in his usual grumpy old bloke style,” the source alleges.
“He tells Terri and others that he’s worried some men are only interested in her for her fame, her kids, and her riches, and everyone is guilty until proven innocent in his eyes – not that he ever gives any prospective dates enough time to prove their intentions!”
The source adds that this “jealous” behaviour has caused Terri’s friends to “privately gossip” that perhaps Russell’s feelings for Terri run deeper than even he realises.
As Terri confirmed in her interview earlier this year, the pair’s intense bond was born out of the tragedy of Steve’s death – he was pierced in the chest by a stingray barb while snorkelling in the Great Barrier Reef – and has been cemented in subsequent years.
“In other ways, his protectiveness is very sweet, and Terri appreciates all his support,” says the source.
The source adds that Terri is particularly indebted to Russell for taking a “father figure” role towards her children during the formative stages of their life.
“He steps in as a father figure to Robert, even buying him a vintage guitar, and has made it clear to Bindi that he will always be there for her if she needs him.
“If Bindi starts a family, Russ has already put his hand up to be godfather and I’m sure she and Chandler [Powell] would be only too happy to grant his request!”
For more, pick up the latest issue of New Idea. Out now!