Bob Hackett The meat buyer who picked a fight with boxer Lionel Rose

The former meat buyer for Ralph's died in February.

Bob Hackett was as rough as they come.

From being reported nine times in one senior game of football, to coming off second best against Indigenous Australian boxer Lionel Rose at an establishment in Drouin, Bob saw his fair share of battles in life.

The former meat industry veteran, who worked as a buyer for JH Ralph & Sons for just about his entire working life, died in February aged 77 after a short illness.

His colleagues and closest friends have described him as a feared, respected, mean, rough and gruff-type fella who was always loyal to his mates, but hostile and aggressive towards those he was bidding against.

Described as a larger than life character by his son, Carey Hackett, Bob was a unique individual even as a three-year-old when he put an end to a rooster who had earlier attacked his older sister and brother.


His schooling life was short-lived and finished at the end of form one before he was expelled - suspended twice that year - once for using a stock whip on a peer who had an altercation with his older brother, and the other time when he arrived at school early and locked everyone outside the building.

It was after his departure from school that Bob began a life-long association with the agriculture industry, especially the livestock buying side of the sector.

Ron Goff, a friend of Bob's for more than 50 years and a close saleyard companion, remembers "Bobby" would travel to Orbost on occasions to buy anything he could get his hands on.

"If you were his enemy, he never let you out of the gun but if you were his friend, you were his friend for life," Mr Goff, Yarragon, said.

"He was a master in his own right."

In his early meat buying days when he was purchasing stock for himself, other local buyers would take it in turns and gang up against the youngster, often out-bidding Bobby on most lots.

"I remember dad telling me that he would hitchhike to markets and other buyers would drive past him and never offer him a ride, even in the rain," Carey, who has also worked for Ralph's as a meat buyer for 35 years, recalled.

But at the age 18 in 1962, Bob received a phone call that ultimately changed his life and made him forge life-long friends.

"It was from JH Ralph himself who wanted a meeting with him," Carey said.

JH Ralph was upset Bob had been bidding against his company at markets in Gippsland and as the old adage goes, if you can't beat them, join them.

"With that, JH Ralph threw a set of car keys at dad and said the car out the front is yours, be in Bairnsdale in the morning. You work for me now," Carey remembers his father telling him.

When Bob arrived at the market the next day, he started bidding on bullocks and the other buyers wondered what he was up to.

"He bought the first pen and knocked them down to JH Ralph," Carey said.

"Dad said the other buyers shit themselves as he then proceeded to flog them."

Besides a two-year hiatus from the meat industry when Bob and his family moved from Longwarry to Mepunga West, near Warrnambool, Bob worked for Ralph's for 58 years after he was lured back to a similar role in mid-1977 where he started buying for the company again at markets in western Victoria and SA.

Another meat buyer Russell Duncombe said one man referred to him as Mad Hackett from Gippsland when he turned up to the Warrnambool saleyards, and before long Bob was back buying cattle.

JH Ralph & Sons later became Ralph's Meat Company and Wagstaff Trading.

However, his antagonistic behaviour was not limited to the saleyards.

Bob played footy for Hallora-Strzelecki and Longwarry and was admired and feared as one of the meanest and toughest footballers of his generation.

In his last game of football, he was playing in the grand final for Hallora-Strzelecki at Poowong, and as he ran onto the ground before the game an opposition supporter tripped him.

In the moments after the incident, three players were belted by Bob, according to Carey, which formed part of the nine separate reports issued against him that day.

After the game when he fronted the tribunal, he was asked whether he pleaded 'guilty' or 'not guilty'.

"Insane," Bobby replied.

He was ultimately banned from playing for three years.

His antics as an amateur fighter caught the better of him one night in the Drouin Hotel when he unknowingly started a melee with Australian bantamweight boxer Lionel Rose after a dispute arose about a couple of bucks which went missing.

"A brawl quickly began between the two groups and punches were being thrown," Carey recalled his father telling him.

"Unfortunately for Bobby, the young bloke he struck happened to be Lionel Rose who then got up and used Bobby's head as a speed ball."

He was also a keen fisherman and a fine horseman, held in high regard by many notable trainers who would send him problem horses to be broken in.

Mr Goff said every moment with Bob was memorable.

"He was a rough diamond, but if he was your friend he was your friend for life," Mr Goff said.

"He was as rough as they came but he was a decent, genuine bloke."

In his almost six decades working for Ralph's, Bob served under four generations of the Ralph family.

Wagstaff Trading director Robert Ralph, the grandson of James Henry Ralph, described Bob as a "dynamic individual" who bought well in excess of a million cattle for the Ralph family during his tenure as a buyer.

"He was very strong-willed, very strong-principled and very company-orientated," Mr Ralph said.

"One might say he was a lovable character, but he was always boisterous and yes, in his younger days he was feisty, but I never experienced that side of him."

Mr Ralph said Bob was respected for his good grasp on market conditions.

"He was a very good judge of livestock and understood the pace of the market and was very aware of what his opposition was doing on a daily basis so he could get the best result for his clients," he said.

"We were then killing 650 cattle a day back in the 1960s and 70s at Brooklyn and we would have been killing another 150 at Cranbourne and Bob on any odd day could buy a couple of thousand cattle.

"Rough numbers would suggest he bought well over a million cattle for us during that time."

Bob is survived by his first wife, Sandra, his second wife Maria, and his three children Carey, Janita and Angelica.

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