The West

Bob Howat, the West Perth premiership player and prominent bookmaker, has died after a long battle with lung cancer.

He was 66.

Howat was a dashing half-back who coach Graham Farmer successfully converted from a fringe wingman into a key player in West Perth's 1971 premiership team.

A Tuart Hill junior who was captain of the State schoolboys team in 1961, Howat made 98 appearances for the then Cardinals after failing in his bid to join South Melbourne as a 17-year-old.

Howat retired the year after winning the flag to take a greater role in the racing industry.

"I had a wonky leg, was approaching 25 and looking clinically at the form guide, reckoned I'd be better off looking at other engagements," Howat said several years ago.

Howat, who became president of the WA Bookmakers' Association and was a satchel swinger for nearly 40 years, was prominently involved in WA's greatest racing controversy.

He suffered heavily at the hands of Laurie Connell in the 1987 Perth Cup when Connell's horse Rocket Racer won by nine lengths after he had been backed from 50-1 weeks before the race.

Rocket Racer collapsed after the race and died months later from unexplained reasons.

Connell supposedly won more than $500,000 from bookmakers that day - much of it from Howat - and shouted the members' bar at Ascot before he hosted a flamboyant party at Subiaco's Mediterranean restaurant that night.

"I paid heavily for that win," Howat said. "While they were spending my hard earnt at the Mediterranean I was on the foreshore eating fish and chips."

Howat, who married Dianne Cowan, the daughter of East Fremantle legend Merv Cowan, had a successful coaching career in the Sunday Football League and country.

He steered Wanneroo to the 1975 premiership, as well as three other grand final appearances, and coached Toodyay to a flag from three grand finals.

He remained a prominent member of West Perth's premiership players' club which meets in Leederville every fortnight.

The West Australian

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