Career : 1978 - 1979
Debut : Round 3, 1978 vs Melbourne, aged 24 years, 333 days
Carlton Player No. 873
Games : 30
Goals : 12
Last Game: Round 12, 1979 vs Geelong, aged 26 years, 36 days
Guernsey No. 1
Height : 178 cm (5 ft. 9 in.)
Weight : 85 kg (13 stone, 5 lbs.)
DOB : 17 May, 1953
Anyone who has seen the best-selling Channel 7 football highlights package “Sensational Seventies” will be familiar with Denis Collins as the Carlton player involved in a famous confrontation with St Kilda’s Robbie "Mad Dog" Muir, late in the last game of the 1978 season at Moorabbin.
Victory in that important match against the Saints would have given Carlton a berth in the Qualifying final rather than the Elimination final, but that was not to be, as we went down by 40 points. The only drawback on a day of joy for Saints supporters was Muir’s last quarter report, for striking his former team-mate Val Perovic. As usual, Muir was furious when he was booked, and after flinging his mouthguard away, he began abusing the umpire. Meanwhile, Collins bravely - but unwisely - decided to rub it in. He came up beside Muir right in front of the infamous Animal Enclosure (packed with St Kilda’s most vocal supporters) and ruffled the volatile Saint’s hair. Instantly, Muir exploded – flinging back a left forearm that hit Denis flush on the jaw and knocked him flat on his back. As the umpires rushed in to book him again, the final siren sounded. Muir was hustled off the field by a couple of trainers, but not before he had also lashed out at a young spectator who got too close!
Collins had joined Carlton earlier that same year from Footscray. A bushy-bearded winger/half forward whose key asset was his pace, he had played exactly 100 games and kicked 60 goals for the Bulldogs over six seasons, before looking for a fresh start elsewhere. At Princes Park, he was honoured with our number 1 guernsey for his debut match, which came against Melbourne at Princes Park in round three. Playing on a wing, he was solidly effective in a 13-point win, and held his position in the senior team right through the season.
The week after his clash with Robbie Muir, Collins lined up for only his second career final when Carlton met Geelong in the Elimination Final at the MCG. His experience, and his speed in the open spaces on the wing, proved valuable in helping the Blues to an emphatic win by 33 points. In the following week’s Semi Final clash with Collingwood, a tough, fiery encounter was indispersed with some brilliant passages of play from both sides. Collingwood jumped away to an early good lead and although the Blues fought back to within four points at the last break, the Pies weathered the storm and ran out 15-point winners. Denis Collins was the Blues top vote scorer in the 1978 Brownlow with 12 votes.
After a solid pre-season, Collins played the first seven matches of 1979 in succession, only to then be sent back to the Reserves while Carlton’s match committee took a close look at one of that year’s promising recruits; a red-haired terrier from South Bendigo named Peter Francis. However, being relegated at that particular time did not sit well with Collins. Although he was reinstated for rounds 11 and 12, he fell out of favour with his captain-coach Alex Jesaulenko after that, and spent the remainder of the year with the seconds. While the Navy Blues went about claiming their twelfth Premiership with a controversial Grand Final triumph over Collingwood, Collins requested a clearance to Sydney club North Shore, but it was refused.
Eventually, Collins returned to training with the Blues as the 1980 pre-season got underway, although it was already obvious by then that his days at Princes Park were numbered. In March of that year, he was cleared to Richmond, where he knuckled down, and rounded off his 147-game VFL career with another 17 appearances in his only season for the Tigers.
In later years, Denis and his wife Sheenagh settled at Hyden, in country Western Australia. There, on Wednesday, August 30, 2011, he suffered a massive heart attack, and passed away at the tragically young age of 58.
Career Highlights1978 - 10th Best & Fairest
1978 - 12 Brownlow Votes (leading vote scorer for Carlton)