DEDICATION: In administrative work over more than 20 years Neville Collins served numerous terms as secretary of the North Coas
DEDICATION: In administrative work over more than 20 years Neville Collins served numerous terms as secretary of the North Coas

Lifesaver?s awesome contribution

NEVILLE Collins' love of rowing set him on a dedicated path in surf life saving.

Coached by Graham Toovey, Neville trained for weeks in a squad of six and in January 1967, gained his surf bronze medallion, the award mandatory to qualify for patrol work and carnival competition.

He did his regular beach patrol duty and was a junior (Under-18) competitor, and progressed to the senior ranks. It was then that he became a patrol captain and began his long trek into administration at the Woolgoolga club, North Coast branch and NSW Surf life Saving State Centre levels.

From there it was year-afteryear in numerous office positions for the club and executive office in the North Coast branch.

He also gained the instructor's and examiner's certificates to become a member of the North Coast and NSW Board of Examiners, now called The Board of Control.

Passing the examiner's certificate test meant he had qualified to test bronze medallion candidates and judge at club, branch, country, state and national surf carnivals.

He continued to gain extra life saving awards such as the resuscitation certificate in 1971, the advanced resuscitation certificate (ARC) in 1974 and the ARC examiner's certificate in 1978.

In administrative work over more than 20 years Neville served numerous terms as secretary of the North Coast branch and as branch delegate to Surf Life Saving NSW.

In appreciation of his unstinting work Neville was made a life member of the North Coast branch in 1986.

Before that, one of his great thrills was being chosen to help organise the 1969 Royal Tour Surf Carnival at Coffs Harbour. The carnival proved a grand success and brought highly favourable comment from Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip.

Another highlight was also a reward for quality and dedication to surf life saving affairs with selection in 1976 to tour as a member of the NSW State Centre Education team to the Philippines, Hong Kong and Bali.

Neville was named Woolgoolga Clubman of the Year for the 1974/75 season and in 1982 he was engaged to write the Woolgoolga Surf Life Saving Club's 50th anniversary book.

It was a book which told explicitly of the club's history since its 1932 beginning.

Neville, along with two other great workers, Peter Finn and Gary McSkimming, was honoured with club life membership.

From shortly after his birth Neville had been taken by his mother Laurel to watch his father 'Stumpy' Collins compete with the South Grafton Water Brigade in the regular Saturday afternoon floodboat flutters and butcher boat competitions.

He enjoyed watching the competition and eventually as a nine-year-old and to his great delight was accepted as a coxswain for crews and would be part of the action.

He was nine years of age when he won his first coxwain's pointscore trophy.

It followed that later he learned to row other craft and took up rowing as a sport at high school.

Neville was a mere 15 when he won his first rowing event for Grafton High, stroking the Jim Young-coached fourth four to victory at the Lismore regatta. Boated with Neville were Gary Wicks, Robert Hastings and Col Hayman with Paul Booth-Jones as coxswain.

Later that year Neville was a member of the Grafton junior floodboat crew with Alan Kotoff, Ted McCartney and Brian McCarthy that won the much-prized Chesty Bond Challenge Trophy in Grafton.

It was in November of that year that Jim Young, a keen member of the Woolgoolga Surf Life Saving Club, invited Neville to have a row with the junior surf boat crew.

Neville says he was apparently destined to become a member of the Woolgoolga surf club as his uncle, Boyce Summers, had been a keen competitor with Woolgoolga and club captain from 1949 to 1951.

"My father who had been born in Woolgoolga was never an active member of the surf club but he was a great supporter," Neville said.

"He used to help his good mate, club secretary Gordon Jabour, in the staging of annual surf carnivals.

"In those days the gatetakings at carnivals were among the main club fundraisers and Dad would spend the day manning the gate and Mum would take me and my sister Lesley to the beach.

"And that is where my love of surf club work was first ignited."

Neville John Collins was born in Grafton in June 1950, son of Arthur (Stumpy) and Laurel (nee Summers) Collins. He has just the one sister Lesley, who in 1974 married prominent sportsman in rugby league, greyhound training and lawn bowls, Ken Landrigan.

Neville had his early schooling at South Grafton Public and was school captain in his final year, 1962.

He then attended Grafton High School, became a school prefect in 1968 and gained the Higher School Certificate at the end of that year.

Neville continued rowing during his senior years at Grafton High, with Bruce Wilson joining his fours crew in place of Gary Wicks, who had left at the end of the previous year to take a trade apprenticeship.

Coach Jim Young had left Grafton so the new crew was without a coach until Robert Hastings suggested his father, accomplished oarsman Dick Hastings, could be interested in the task.

Dick Hastings coached the crew for Neville's final two school years.

"The highlight of our rowing under his guidance was winning the Head of the Northern Rivers Regatta third fours at Grafton," Neville said.

When Robert Hastings and Col Hayman left school at the end of 1967, David Fischer and Phil Hancock joined Bruce Wilson and Neville with Bob Doherty as coxswain, and under the eye of Dick Hastings, the crew had a number of successes in Brisbane, Lismore and Grafton and retained the third fours trophy at the Head of the Northern Rivers Regatta.

Among the crew's other highlights was contesting the NSW Combined High Schools' (CHS) Regatta at Iron Cove in Sydney for a fourth placing in the final.

After completing school and the Higher School Certificate Neville continued his rowing career by joining the Grafton Rowing Club.

He had mixed success with a number of crews and backed up competition with a term as club secretary in the 1970/71 season.

However, his chief interest at that stage was with surf life saving, in particular with Woolgoolga surf club.

He was then in his senior years with the surf club and realised it had more senior rowers than were needed for two senior crews so he turned to administration.

However, he did win a club championship, not in rowing but swimming, drawn by chance to partner his cousin and junior surf champion Gary Angel in the senior/junior brace relay title.

Gary gave them a good lead in the first leg and Neville showed determination in keeping all challengers at bay in the final leg for victory.

In his first employment after finishing high school Neville was a clerk at the South Grafton Abattoir for the Riverstone Meat Company and then was 12 years company secretary at the Clarence Co-operative Butchery. That led to employment as secretary of the Grafton office of the Pastures Protection Board.

He has been with the Grafton office for 18 years, with a number of promotions, such as to administrative officer and executive officer and now is the manager of the Grafton office of the Rural Land Protection Board.

Reverting back to his surf life saving days, besides his 15 years as North Coast branch secretary and his job as branch delegate to NSW State Centre, Neville's work for the Woolgoolga club was prodigious, often serving in a number of positions in the one season.

Offices he held and carried out with his well-known and respected efficiency included a season as secretary to president Ron O'Connor and before that seven seasons as assistant to secretary Paul Gadd during the presidencies of George Hallwood and Peter Finn and firstly with Graham Toovey and later Alex Peters, the club captains.

He also had terms as chief instructor, club vice-captain to Steve Smith, vice-boat captain to Neil (Ebor) Welsh, club recorder and many years as publicity officer.

It was in August 1972 that Neville Collins married Etonsville lass Dulcie Higham.

Dulcie, beside being a dedicated wife and mother has been an ideal supporter of his volunteer duties with the surf life saving movement and in his working career.

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