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Collins, Herbert Leslie (1889–1959)

by B. G. Andrews

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 8, (MUP), 1981

Herbert Leslie Collins (1889-1959), by unknown artist

Herbert Leslie Collins (1889-1959), by unknown artist

National Library of Australia, nla.pic-an24680527

Herbert Leslie Collins (1889-1959), cricketer, was born on 21 January 1889 in Sydney, son of Thomas Jones Collins, accountant, and his wife Emma, née Charlton. Educated at Albion Street (Superior) Public School, he was promising at cricket and Rugby Union from his schooldays. He played for the Paddington District Cricket Club under Monty Noble, and transferred to Sydney in 1909-10, when he made his Sheffield Shield début. In 1911-12 he topped the first grade batting with 727 runs at 66; next season he became established in the State side and scored 282 against Tasmania. He toured the United States of America and Canada in 1913 and New Zealand in 1914.

In June 1915 Collins enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force and served in Palestine with 6th Company Army Service Corps, and from June 1916 with 10th Company as a driver in France. Invited to join the A.I.F. team formed in England in 1919 Collins, although only a lance corporal, was elected captain after Charles Kellaway disputed with officials and his fellow players. On the tour of England and South Africa Collins scored 2290 runs at 41, took 145 wickets and proved himself an astute leader: among his 'discoveries' were Jack Gregory and Bert Oldfield.

Collins was discharged from the A.I.F. in March 1920. Next summer he was vice-captain to Warwick Armstrong against the touring English side, and forged a formidable opening partnership with Warren Bardsley, with whom he shared three century stands; Collins's 557 runs at 61 in the series included 70 and 104 in the first Test and 162 at Adelaide. A broken thumb and the superiority of the Australians restricted him to three test innings on the 1921 tour of England but his dour 40 in 289 minutes at Old Trafford made safe the only Test in which the visitors were extended.

En route home Collins deputized for the injured Armstrong in the three tests against South Africa, scoring 203 in a day at Johannesburg. He was appointed captain for the 1924-25 series against A. E. R. Gilligan's English side; although he did little with the bat after an obdurate 114 in the first Test, he led Australia to a convincing 4/1 victory in the series. On his last tour of England in 1926 he was hampered by neuritis, but scored a skilful 61 in the decisive Oval Test, in which his team lost the Ashes. Further injuries caused his retirement soon after returning to Australia.

As a batsman Collins was no great stylist: primarily an on-side player, he scored most of his runs from deft placements and glances, with an occasional over the shoulder hook. Adjectives such as 'stolid', 'imperturbable' and 'courageous' abound in descriptions of his play, which was based on defence and concentration. Whereas the 'big ship' Armstrong was the rumbustious authoritarian captain, the small, dapper, leathery Collins exuded a quiet control which won the respect and loyalty of team-mates and the affection of his opponents. 'Nerveless as a city window cleaner', he enhanced his reputation by a poker face and a lugubrious expression. In 19 tests Collins scored 1352 runs at 45, and in all first-class matches just under 10,000 at 40. He bowled a tidy left-arm orthodox spin from a run up of two paces, and was a fine field. He was elected a life member of the New South Wales Cricket Association in 1936-37.

A passionate gambler, Collins was known to his public as 'Horseshoe' or 'Lucky' and to his team-mates as 'Mauldy', 'Nutty' or 'Bert'. Towards the end of his playing career he became a bookmaker on the Associated Racing Clubs' pony courses, and was later a stipendiary steward and commission agent. In July 1940 he enlisted in the second A.I.F. and from November was a sergeant in Eastern Command's Salvage and Recovery Section of the Army Service Corps; he was transferred to the reserve in November 1941. On 30 October 1939 he had married Marjorie Warilda Paine, whom he divorced in 1953.

Survived by a son, Collins died of cancer in Prince Henry Hospital on 28 May 1959 and was cremated.

Select Bibliography

  • A. E. R. Gilligan, Collins's Men (Lond, 1926)
  • R. Barker and I. Rosenwater, England v Australia: A Compendium of Test Cricket Between the Countries 1877-1968 (Melb, 1969)
  • R. Mason, Warwick Armstrong's Australians (Lond, 1971)
  • R. Robinson, On Top Down Under (Syd, 1975)
  • Wisden Cricketers' Almanack, 1910-15, 1920-28, 1960
  • People (Sydney), 25 Feb 1953
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 19 Apr, 14 Nov 1921, 3 Oct 31 Dec 1925, 10 Jan 1952, 29, 31 May 1959
  • newsclippings file (National Library of Australia).

Citation details

B. G. Andrews, 'Collins, Herbert Leslie (1889–1959)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/collins-herbert-leslie-5738/text9713, published first in hardcopy 1981, accessed online 27 November 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 8, (MUP), 1981

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