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Bill Collins Australian race caller



Bill Collins (1928 – 1997) started his career calling small country races in Victoria. In almost 50 years he called 34 Melbourne Cups becoming known as "The Accurate One" for his ability to correctly call the result of even the closest finish.

Bill Collins also called major races in England, USA, South Africa, New Zealand, Hong Kong and Singapore. On Easter Saturday in 1987 Bill Collins called his last race.

He is regarded as Australia’s greatest race caller and was awarded an Order of Australia Medal.

Collins' radio career began in the early 1950s in Sale, Victoria, and in 1953 he moved to Melbourne where he worked as a race caller for the radio station 3DB, and appeared on television hosting the musical comedy program Sunnyside Up and The Penthouse Club at HSV-7, leading to a Logie Award in 1959 for Outstanding Performance.

He called his last race on Easter Saturday 1988 on radio 3UZ,as 3DB had already dropped it's racing coverage.

In 2004, he was honoured posthumously at the Moonee Valley Racecourse, home of the W.S. Cox Plate, with the 'Kingston Town Greatness Award' for his services to the event.

Moonee Valley Racecourse also features the Bill Collins Mile.

The infamous "Bill Collins" interview on 3AW in 1992 deserves a mention.

Greg Evans and Sam Newman were fill-in hosts on the breakfast shift and in a segment about TV, producer Jamie Wilczek got "Bill Collins" (Mr Movies) on the line. Evans, chuckles when recalling that Mr Movies didn't know much about movies.

When Newman asked his opinion about the Clint Eastwood flick Unforgiven winning the best-picture Oscar, Collins said: "The Unforgiven? I don't know - I've never seen the Unforgiven. I probably will go and see it."

A stumped Evans said: "Bill, that surprises me. Do you normally wait for some time before you see the current movies?
Collins: "Yeah, quite a while. It's a matter of finding a bit of spare time."
The hosts cottoned on that something was wrong and an expletive was beeped out. Evans cracked up laughing, blurting: "Sam, you'd better take over."

The Bill Collins on the line was the race caller, not the movie reviewer, and after numerous apologies, Newman asked: "The greyhounds, how are they going?" As they say in the movies, it's a classic.

1982 - Kingston Town

"Kingston Town can't win . . . aw, he might win yet, the champ . . . Kingston Town swamping them; what a run . . ."
- racecaller Bill Collins' call is so intricately woven into the King's history-making third Cox Plate win that it's difficult to decide which was the most memorable element of the race: the broadcast or the victory itself.

An early call, maybe, and certainly brave. But with five or six horses between Kingston Town and a Cox Plate hat-trick as the field steamed around the HOME turn, it seemed a reasonable punt. Then Peter Cook got Kingston Town out from behind the leaders, and rounded them up for an improbable win

1986 - Bonecrusher

"Here come the New Zealanders . . . have they gone too early? . . . And Bonecrusher races into equine immortality . . . the crowd is roaring its head off."
-racecaller Collins

Again, Collins' call - sustained at a searing pace for 600 metres and thus truly honouring the spectacle that was unfolding below - became part of Cox Plate folklore.

This was one of those races where the hype in the lead-up was matched, surpassed even, by the race, as the two New Zealand chestnuts, Bonecrusher and Our Waverley Star, slugged it out from the school. Throats were left raw.

On the international scene Collins was, in 1958, the first Australian to make a direct race broadcast from the United States. He called three English Derbies, and was given an open invitation by South Africa to broadcast their Spring Carnival of Racing every season - an invitation he accepted five times. He was a great ambassador for his country and made such an impact in South Africa that he was asked to conduct a seminar to assist local callers.

His involvement in racing was not restricted to calling. He was a trotting journalist for the Herald and Weekly Times and Sunday Press for many years, co-compare of 'The Penthouse Club' that brought harness racing to television, and for almost two decades he was a member of the popular 'World of Sport' program which he hosted in Ron Casey's absence. Collins was also active in racing administration, being the first racing media representative to be nominated to a statutory authority when he was appointed to the Harness Racing Board in June 1985. He served with that Board until May 1987 when he was appointed Chairman of the Greyhound Racing Control Board, a position he held with great proficiency.

He was a member of the Victorian TAB for six years, and served on the Board of radio station Sport 927. Collins' outstanding knowledge of the racing and betting industries made his opinions widely sought by both the industry and the government. He was presented with the Bert Wolfe Award for excellence for his chosen field in journalism and was declared the Racing Personality of the Year in 1987.

Although best known for his association with racing, Collins made other valuable contributions to sport in Australia. As Chairman of the South Melbourne Football Club in 1981, he guided the club through a most difficult time associated with a lack of on-field success, and its relocation to Sydney as the Sydney Swans. In 1956 Collins was selected as a commentator at the Olympic Games in Melbourne, a task he accomplished with skill. Indeed his success was such he was also appointed to the international commentary teams for both the 1976 Montreal and 1980 Moscow Olympics.

He died on June 14 1997 after a long battle with cancer.

A monument to Bill Collins is at Caulfield racecourse in Melbourne and was unveiled in 2013.