Denis Collins came into this world on the 17th May 1953 in Braybrook, Victoria, son to the former Fitzroy and Carlton player - Jack Collins. He inherited the nickname "Scruffy", due to the full beard he sported when he played football. After a fantastic football career (1972 - 1977 Footscray, 1978 - 1979 Carlton, 1980 Richmond), this much loved and respected footballer headed over to Western Australia which is where this story starts.....
Denis, a bright-eyed city boy, ignorant to the ways of country life came to Hyden in 1983, though, not in the usual way.... Russel Mouritz had become the President of the failing local football club which was in desperate need of a good coach. He headed to Perth to try and find someone to help boost the skill level and confidence of the players. Finding Denis Collins the best candiate, the President of East Perth said if you can get him off the beach, he would be your best choice. Denis met with Russel at the place he called his 'office' (the beer garden at the Cottesloe Hotel). He said he had never worked on a farm, but agreed to come to Hyden and give it a go. Arriving at Hyden in the evening, after a long trip with Philip Lynch, Denis - who had enjoyed and given away his past assets, bought with him enough money to buy a can of coke, a footy bag, tennis racquet and a few pairs of jocks. On arrival, he walked into the front bar of the Hyden Hotel with long permed hair, two missing front teeth (having had them knocked out during a game of footy), cut off jeans for shorts (exposing his orange socks), and a singlet. He was tanned and taut but looked like he had never done a hard days work..... This was about to change....
Russel Mouritz believed that Denis was a champion and took him under his wing. Their first job was knocking down an old garage. Denis, who never complained worked so hard in the first week that he wore the skin off his hands exposing the tendons - never once letting Russel know how much pain he was in. Russel taught Denis all he needed to know about farming life and small town politics, and they became the best of friends. Denis went on to marry the love of his life, Sheenagh Mouritz.
Denis was heavily involved in development of Hyden and Wave Rock, along with Russel and Sheenagh. Their achievements include the Wave Rock Hotel extensions, the Hyden Travel Stop extensions, the Bush Shopping Village, the Caravan Park development, the Wave Rock Resort, the Lace Place, the Miniature Soldier Fort, the Camm River Rehabilitation Project, the Airport, the Wave Rock Walk Way, and his beloved wildflower farm "Lazy D".
Having a strong self belief - Denis was able to do things and do them well (as long as he could use a tech screw gun). He was a friend to many people and could strengthen a whole team with his determination and amazing skill - on and off the field. He had an amazing belief that he could win and that nothing was impossible.
Supporting a staff of around 50, Denis was loved by all who worked for and with him. If anyone asked how many people worked for him, he would jokingly say, "about half of them". Film crews from all over the world were entertained by Denis. He enjoyed learning the local Aboriginal history and was admired by many Aboriginal people. Out of respect, Denis has taken many ancestral stories to his grave, having promised it was special men's business and should not be repeated. The stories he was able to repeat delighted many tourists and added the true local history and dimension to his Wave Rock Tours. He had a great memory and learned most of the wildflower names (botanical and latin) in the area.
He was a tough guy - the person the police called to help in a crisis and they knew he would dispel most problems without bothering them in the night. His mobile phone was connected to the emergency line for the Royal Flying Doctors (RFDS), Silver Chain and the Hyden Respite Service. Denis was the first call from the emergency office. He cleared the air strip of kangaroos everytime an RFDS plane flew out at night and regularly chased sheep off the runway during the day when pilots rang to say they could not land.
The extent of his dedication to tourism and Hyden could never be measured.
Denis died of a sudden heart attack on 31st August 2011 - Carlton Football Club's vale read "Gone to be with all the champions". He is sadly missed.