"I Had A Tear In My Eye": Pigeon

WEDGED in the multitude of congratulatory messages Jeff Collerson received after his Hall of Fame induction was one that resonated above all else.

Adam Dobbin

12 September 2021

WEDGED in the multitude of congratulatory messages Jeff Collerson received after his Hall of Fame induction was one that resonated above all else.

It was a sharp and succinct message from leading NSW trainer Mark Gatt that hit a nerve and sparked a flood of emotions for the veteran journo.

“He said that as far as he was concerned greyhound racing was now complete,” Collerson revealed.

“I must admit I got emotional reading that and all the other messages I’ve received. But for Mark to say that was very humbling, it definitely struck a chord.”

Last Tuesday on a showcase edition of Sky Racing’s The Catching Pen program Jeff Collerson was ushered into the Australian Greyhound Racing Hall of Fame.

Luminaries of the racing industry including Graham McNiece, John Tapp, Paul Ambrosoli and Ray Thomas spoke glowingly about the man more affectionately known as Pigeon.

For Collerson he said it was like watching an episode of ‘This Is Your Life’ which reflected and paid tribute to the 58 years of service he has afforded the greyhound industry as a revered journalist.

“I had a tear in my eye watching so many great people speak so highly of myself,” Collerson said.

“And to share it with my wife Kathryn and the kids made it even more special. 

Jeff Collerson at Wentworth Park.

“I’ve always said that the people in greyhound racing are the salt of the earth and like my extended family. This goes a long way to formalising that.”

When Collerson retired from The Daily Telegraph in 2012 it marked precisely 50 years since he began work at the Daily Mirror before later moving on to News Limited and The Daily Telegraph.

But as Collerson details, his introduction into greyhound racing was more by chance than any well devised plan.

“Mike Carlton was the greyhound writer at the Daily Mirror back in 1962 but when he moved to cover Rugby League they needed someone to do the greyhounds,” Collerson recalled.

“I was pretty much the only one in the joint not married at the time and because the job entailed working Saturday nights no one else was interested.

“So I fell into it but I’m glad I did. I wouldn’t change any of it for the world – I’ve made so many great friends and memories. It feels like it started five minutes ago.”

In Collerson’s 2005 book titled ‘Getting Paid to Drink and Gamble: Memoirs Of a Greyhound Writer’ he regales stories which included how he used to tip to billionaire and legendary punter Kerry Packer.

And that’s what makes Collerson so endearing, someone that’s so adept at conveying people’s stories is at the same time such a great storyteller himself.

“I’ll never forget when famous English soccer player Charlie George came out to play for St. George’s Budapest in 1977,” Collerson recalled.

“Part of the deal was that he would write a column for The Daily Mirror which the paper’s soccer writer Tom Anderson would ghost for him.

“Charlie loved his greyhounds so every time he came into the office to do the article he’d spend the whole time with me which gave Ando the shits.

“One Saturday night, Charlie was the guest speaker at a big dinner at the Sheraton in town but on the way he stopped in at Wentworth Park. 

Jeff Collerson in his early days with The Daily Telegraph

“I tipped him the first winner so he stuck around for the second and I tipped him that winner as well.

“After three or four races he was going that good on the punt he missed the entire dinner.

“The next week he got the flick from doing the column altogether!”

That story was relayed to your writer just three days ago when preparing this article.

When Jeff speaks or writes you are gravitated towards engaging which is a rare quality confined to few.

Earlier this week fellow Australian Greyhound Hall of Fame inductee and legendary broadcaster Paul Ambrosoli said it best when saying; “Jeff’s greatest feature is his relatabilty to his audience”.

“When he writes you understand and he brings you along on the journey. 

“For a writer there’s no greater asset and Jeff has made an artform of it for over 50 years.”

When Mark Gatt delivered that succinct message earlier this week he probably didn’t realise the impact it would carry and the range of people within the industry he was speaking for.

The history of greyhound racing now sits much better knowing Jeff Collerson is etched into the Australian Greyhound Racing Hall of Fame.

His contribution to the sport is almost immeasurable.