The St George Illawarra Dragons are deeply saddened by the passing of former St George Dragons halfback Mark Shulman.
Shulman passed away suddenly on Saturday. He was 70.
The local Arncliffe Scots and Ramsgate United junior made his first grade debut five days short of his 20th birthday in Round 1 of the 1971 season.
A late call-up to the first grade bench after captaining St George's thirds team earlier that day, Shulman scored a try on debut after replacing legendary playmaker Billy Smith who suffered a broken arm.
Lack of opportunity and injuries would impact Shulman's first grade presence in the years that followed but nobody would deny the crucial role he played in St George's 1977 premiership victory.
Although a back injury suffered in the Dragons' initially drawn grand final against Parramatta prevented him from taking the field in the grand final replay, his influence throughout the season was undeniable.
Shulman was forced into retirement after suffering a much more severe back injury midway through the following season. All up he featured in 168 games for the Red V; 58 of them coming in first grade.
Shulman later served as a lower grade coach for St George, taking the reserves to the preliminary final in three straight years (1981-83).
"Mark epitomised courage and determination," St George Illawarra chairman Craig Young said.
"It's remarkable to think how he prospered in first grade rugby league, given the nature of the game at that time. A bloke as small as 'Bantam' wasn't supposed to survive back then, let alone be a key part in a premiership-winning side.
"He was quick, tough, amazingly durable and very smart with a footy. We all had so much respect for him," Young, who was a teammate of Shulman in 1977 and 1978, added.
"It's a sad day. Everyone at the St George Illawarra Dragons send their sincere condolences to Mark's family and friends."