Bill Collins Australian Race Caller
Bill Collins Legendary Australian Race Caller
Along with the horses, jockeys and trainers, owners and big-time punters that have earned a spot of notoriety for their contributions to the Sport of Kings, there are others who have caught the attention of the racing public for their unique contributions in other roles.
This would most assuredly be the case with the most famous racing announcer ever to have called a race, William “Bill” Henry Collins. Bill Collins Race Caller
He combined an extensive knowledge of horses, betting, jockeys, races and trainers in such a way that had him constantly in demand at such far-flung racing venues as the U.K., U.S.A., South Africa, Hong Kong, Singapore and New Zealand. So great was his ability to correctly call the winners and finishing order of a race that he was known by everyone involved as “The Accurate One.”
Bill Collins Born In Victoria
Bill Collins was born in Victoria during the so-called Golden Era of radio broadcasting, when the new communication medium was firing the imaginations of people of all ages to such an extent that demand for broadcasts of many sorts was for all intents and purposes insatiable.
Bill Collins grew up idolizing early race callers such as James Carroll and Eric Welch.
He spent hours practicing race calling with those two as his pattern. He also had the benefit of a father who was a trainer, along with several jockeys amongst his relatives. He so loved the idea of being a race caller that he more or less neglected the education that was steering him towards a career in engineering.
His first opportunity to call a race came at a rural track in 1943 when the regular caller did not bother to show.
By the early 50s, Bill Collins found a further opportunity in Sale, Victoria. He was apparently showing promise to the degree that by 1953, he was working for Melbourne radio station 3 DB.
Bill Also Seen On TV In Early Days
In those early days, Collins, as was typical for many of his brethren, filled many broadcasting roles. He was the host of an entertainment program, Sunnyside Up, and he also made his television debut in the very early days of that medium on a programme that televised harness racing. He was recognized with an award for that effort in 1959.
He also earned the distinction of being the first Australian to call races in the United States. South Africa basically gave him the leeway to call races of the Spring Racing Carnival when and however it suited him. He trained future South African race callers whilst there. Further international offers were forthcoming due to the excellent work he did calling three English Derbys.
Bill Collins also wrote weekly columns about racing for multiple publications and filled in on a regular basis for close to 20 years on the “World of Sport” programme.
Some thirty years into his career, he was considered such an expert on so many aspects of sports that he was made the chairman of the South Melbourne Football Club and he is given credit for revitalizing that club. As late as 1985, he served as a member on the Harness Racing Board, the source of his original foray into race calling.
If asked, Bill Collins would say one of the highlights of his lengthy and distinguished career would have been his 1986 call of the W. S. Cox Plate. That epic edition of that prestigious race that featured the battle betwixt Our Waverly Star and Bone Crusher is sometimes referred to by those with close associations to the sport as the race of the century.
Soon afterward, he went to the dogs, serving as chairman of the Greyhound Racing Control Board, without neglecting to find time to continue to call horse races. This year, 1987, also saw him commemorating having called the Melbourne Cup for 34 years running. He was also honored for his contributions to radio and television with the award of the Bert Wolf Award for Excellence in Journalism.
Not A Bad Outcome For A Boy From Moe, Victoria.
He was also known for his find work covering various events at the 1956 Melbourne Olympic Games, doing the same again for the ’76 Olympics in Montreal and the ’80 Moscow games. Collins called his last race on Easter Sunday of 1988 for radio 3UZ, marking the end of a nearly 40 years of broadcasting excellence.
Bill Collins died from cancer in 1997.
The Bill Collins Mile has been run in his honour at the Moonee Valley Racecourse and he was the posthumous recipient of the Kingston Town Greatness award for his calling of the W.S. Cox Plate.