William Henry Collins OAM, is well known in the Australian racing fraternity for his exemplary skills at judging horses. Known as ‘The Accurate One’, Collins had the knack of calling the winner of even the closest race. His extra-sensory skills took him to race tracks across UK, USA, South Africa, New Zealand, Singapore, and Hong Kong.
Born in 1928 in Moe, Victoria, Collins grew up during an era when radio found its way to Australian homes. James Carroll and Eric Welch were his favourite race callers whom he tried to emulate. A strong passion for horseracing made his choose race calling as a career even though he studied engineering. Collins came from a family with a rich tradition in horse racing. His father was a trainer while many of his other family members were jockeys. Collins got his first opportunity as a race caller at the tender age of 15 when the official race caller in the town of Lindenow failed to turn up.
Collins launched his radio career in Sale, Victoria, as a race caller in the early 1950s, before moving to Melbourne in 1953 to work with radio station 3DB. Alongside, Collins also hosted a musical comedy program, Sunnyside Up, and The Penthouse Club, a program that brought harness racing to television, for HSV-7, which brought him the 1959 Logie Award for Outstanding Performance.
Collins’ career as a race caller made him the first Australian to broadcast a race directly from the United States. A great ambassador for Australia, Collins had an open invitation from South Africa to broadcast the Spring Carnival of Racing, which he obliged five times. He also accepted the invitation to conduct a seminar for local callers in South Africa. Calling three English Derbies added to his reputation that led to invitations from all over the world.
His knowledge of racing extended to journalism as well, with a regular column for the Herald and Weekly Times, and Sunday Press. For nearly twenty years, Collins was involved with the ‘World of Sport’ program, often hosting the show in the absence of Ron Casey. Before taking over as Chairman of the Greyhound Racing Control Board in May 1987, Collins served on the Harness Racing Board from June 1985 to May 1987. In 1987, he was presented with the Bert Wolfe Award for excellence in journalism. This was the year when Collins reached a total of 34 Melbourne Cups in his career as a caller. He decided to quit as a race caller on Easter Sunday in 1988, calling his last race for radio 3UZ.
His exemplary knowledge of racing and betting skills made him a much sought after as a racing expert by the industry and the government as well, being recognized as the Racing Personality of the Year in 1987. Collins also served on the Board of Sport 927, a radio station, and spent six years as a member of the Victorian TAB.
While horse racing was his favourite passion, Collins wasn’t new to football in Australia. He took over the reins of the South Melbourne Football Club in 1981 as Chairman, at a time when the club was going through a rough patch. He was also a commentator at the 1956 Olympic Games in Melbourne, and then went on to commentate at the 1976 Montreal and 1980 Moscow Olympics. A long battle with cancer got the better of ‘The Accurate One’ on June 14 1997. However, Moonee Valley Racecourse continues to pay tribute to Collins with the Bill Collins Mile every year, and a posthumous award for his services in the W. S. Cox Plate, the ‘Kingston Town Greatness Award’.