Teen’s remorseful moment on live TV after catching $1 million fish: ‘I’m very sorry’

The elated teen who reeled in a life-changing catch during a fishing competition on the weekend has had his celebrations cut short when he was made to face his troubling past in a live TV interview.

Keegan Payne, 19, who won $1 million in the Northern Territory’s Million Dollar Fish competition on Sunday, was questioned on Wednesday by Sky News host Peter Stefanovic about a rumor that had emerged on social media overnight, with the teen admitting he was involved in a vehicle theft when he was younger.

However Bob Cavanagh, who Payne once worked for and is accused of stealing from, has spoken out telling Yahoo News Australia that he’s a “good kid” who made a mistake. “He’s so remorseful,” Cavanagh, who owns the business Cav’s Mowing, said.

He explained the teen, just 15 at the time, “regretted” what he and two others did. A sentiment also expressed by Payne himself on Wednesday morning when Stefanovic asked him of the rumor during an interview about his life-changing win.

“There is a claim online that you stole a Polaris Ranger and Polaris quad that you and your friends stole and damaged from a business a few years ago, first of all, is that true?” Stefanovic asked.

Payne, speaking from Darwin, answered “yes.” He admitted he and his friends “were n’t thinking at the time” and that he regretted it “big time.”

The teen was on a fishing trip with family and a friend in the early hours of Sunday morning at Katherine River when he reeled in the fish. Source: Supplied

Stefanovic went on to quiz the teen about his intentions, asking if he’d planned to pay back his former boss. Addressing Cavanagh, Payne, who looked genuinely remorseful, apologetic.

“Sorry about your buggy, and I wish I could pay you back,” he said in the air. “I’m very sorry.”

Cavanagh admitted to Yahoo he was “genuinely shocked” after receiving a phone call from Payne’s father. The family said the young teen wanted to pay Cavanagh back for the damaged vehicle he previously took. But the business owner said he has “no hard feelings” and holds “no grudges” against the boy he describes as a “good and deserving kid.”

Cavanagh employed him for a brief period before the Covid lockdown in 2020.

“He was forever remorseful and was always wanting to repay me,” Yahoo told. “He could barely look me in the eye. There was a guilt and remorsefulness, there’s no doubt.”

The young teen, from Katherine in the Northern Territory, found stardom this week after hooking a barramundi with a million-dollar price tag. The competition, which has been running for nine years, saw eight keen anglers score a prize of $10,000 each, with one lucky person, Payne, walking away with $1 million.

The prized barra was released into Top End waters as part of Australia’s richest fishing competition. Each season the competition sees more than a hundred red-tagged fish released in Darwin, Katherine, Arnhem Land, Kakadu and Tiwi Islands waterways.

Keegan Payne (center back) accepts his prize money alongside his family (pictured). Source: Supplied

Accepting his prize on Tuesday, an elated Payne, who was accompanied by his parents and siblings, said he’s “really happy” admitting the win “means so much.”

“This is crazy for us, we’re a big family, there’s eight of us. This is more money than we could ever ask for. This is just great,” he said. “I can buy what I want, maybe help dad and mum out with the home loans.”

The teen said he was on a fishing trip with family and a friend in the early hours of Sunday morning at Katherine River when he reeled in the fish, calling the hotline at 1am.

Cavanagh said the win “has been great for the whole town” of Katherine and said “it’s sad” such negativity has come from it.

“I just feel a little bit sorry for Keegan that this has all come out now because at the time, well, Katherine is a small town, and I kept between me and the family,” he said. “But I don’t see why he isn’t deserving of it.”

Previously, Yahoo News Australia spoke with James McWilliam who took out a piece of the pie in last year’s comp.

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