Years involved in industry: 10
- Promoter of greyhound racing from the 1960s onwards as a racecaller
- As Chairman brought a much needed profile to greyhound racing
- Instrumental in centralised Board grading, increased wagering market share, stake money increases, standardisation of racing equipment, poker machine levy for racing, New Rule Book, New Sandown Track & Kennel Block, Greyhound Achievers Award, Board conducted Greyhound of the Year
- Helped introduce the Greyhound Owners & Breeders Incentive Scheme [GOBIS] and Victorian Breeders Incentive Scheme [VBIS] and the now Group 1 Topgun
Bill Collins brought a much needed profile to greyhound racing when he took over as Chairman of the Greyhound Racing Control Board in 1987.
Perhaps best known for calling races – he called thoroughbred racing’s biggest race, the Melbourne Cup, a record 34 times – the multi-talented Collins was also a gifted sportsman, singer, actor and sports administrator.
“He was a compere on one of Australia’s very first television shows, Sunnyside Up. He was a good actor and did particularly well in comedy sketches. He also had an excellent singing voice, with his racecalling skills allowing him to excel when singing songs that were fast paced or wordy – like those written by Gilbert and Sullivan”, said Robyn Collins, Bill’s wife for more than 30 years.
Bill Collins effectively retired from the workforce [full-time racecalling on radio] to become GRCB Chairman in 1987.
Much was achieved during his 10 years in the role, including increased wagering market share, increased prize money levels, the purchase of a new GRCB office in West Melbourne [William St] and the introduction of the now Group 1 Topgun.
“Everything he did he took very seriously. He worked long hours as the GRCB Chairman and threw everything into it”, Robyn said.
“He was a very smart man and he was a thinker. He could look ahead and take things apart mentally and work out how to improve a situation.”
Collins was also popular among the rank and file greyhound owners and trainers.
“He could always see two sides of an argument, or more than two sides if that was the case. He was a fair minded man who was prepared to listen”, Robyn explained.
For all his talents, dancing was one thing Collins couldn’t do, according to Robyn, herself a former professional dancer.
“Dancing was how I earned my living but Bill could do everything but dance. He had no coordination at all on the dance floor which was surprising because he was such a talented sportsman. He played A grade tennis and A grade cricket. He also played local footy and rode horses and trotters.”
“We were invited to many dances and he’d have fun trying to dance but he had no idea about timing”, she laughed.
Bill owned about a dozen racing greyhounds, the best of which was Chief Dingaan, a top class sprinter from the 1970s who went on to become a top sire.
Bill sired three children of his own, from a previous marriage, and he met all four of his grandchildren before he passed away in 1997, aged 63.