TODAY’S match at Wakefield will see both sides bolstered by overseas imports aplenty – including Australians, French, Fijians, Samoans and Tongans.

How different it was 35 years ago, when Saints travelled to Belle Vue fielding 11 St Helens-born players, with the Geordie Paul Grimes being the team’s furthest flung recruit.

The match took place on 8 January 1984, not long after the lifting of the international transfer ban that had been brought in to stop the player drain Down Under - and the first trickle of Australian guest players had begun to dip their toe into the British game during their off-season.

And bizarrely the biggest coup was pulled off by a Wakefield Trinity side who, thanks to the cash splashed out by a local benefactor, secured the services of Wally Lewis for a 10-match stint as they desperately sought to stave off relegation.

Lewis was The King, an Australian test player at the top of his game who had just finished touring Europe with the Queensland state side when the offer came in.

And Saints found out that afternoon just why he was such a special player; the sort of player people justifiably still talk and write about 35 years later.

To recap, Billy Benyon’s men had travelled to Belle Vue out of sorts and low in confidence. They were 11th in the table and were in the middle of a run that comprised six defeats from seven games.

Six of those games were away from Knowsley Road, so some of that bleak mid-winter travel weariness was understandable.

Nevertheless they will have fancied their chances against a Wakefield side that, despite the best efforts of King Wally, seemed destined for the drop.

In those days there was a pretty brutal four-up, four-down from a 16-division top-flight and it was easy to get sucked into it.

St Helens Star:

And it started well enough with tries from Roy Haggerty, Shaun Allen, Andy Platt and a special from Barrie Ledger putting them in the driving seat.

Ledger’s try was a remarkable piece of work, particularly on that big pitch at Belle Vue. The speedster collected the ball on the right, scorching 20 metres up the flank before doing his tip-to-through-the-tulips impression on a swerving diagonal run, tempting, committing and beating would-be tacklers, leaving them in a bemused heap on the floor.

Another swerve and then Ledger carved his way through the heart of the defence before scorching a further 30 metres up the left wing to score.

Ominously, two tries from Lewis – who seemed impossible to hold - cut Saints’ lead to 22-16 at the break.

Suffice to say Saints did not trouble the scoreboard operators in the second half, and despite Steve Peters’ best efforts to crack Lewis every time, the powerful Australian was as strong as a bull.

King Wally completed his hat-trick as Wakefield went on to wrap up a 31-22 victory.

Trinity won half of the games Lewis played for them – but alas they did not win another game when he returned and were duly relegated.

So was it worth it? It did seem to unsettle his team, and Lewis has spoken about the frosty reception he initially received on account of his hefty wage packet.

And he did not stop Trinity from going down to Division Two.

And even the gates, after a promising 8,000 plus for the opener against Hull featuring Peter Sterling, dwindled with the game against Saints played in front of just 3,957 – with no doubt Christmas expense taking its toll.

But Lewis presence in the west Yorkshire town spawned more than the optimistically named, but ground-breaking Wally Lewis is Coming fanzine.

It was a real dash of overseas quality – a player genuinely in his prime and at the top of his game at test level to brighten up the afternoons of a side that had only had flashes to cheer as memories of their real 60s glory years had begun to fade.

More overseas stars would follow with Meninga, Grothe and Kenny, but Lewis was the first of the real superstars to grace British pitches.

And there will be some spectators stood on the terraces today, who maybe would not be standing there had it not been for the tales told to them by the mams, dads and grandads, stories embellished over the years of Neil Fox, Don Fox, Dave Topliss …and for that all too brief stint King Wally.

Wakefield: Kelly; Jones, Coventry, Burns, Scott Lewis; Wally Lewis, Bell; Hughes, Maskill, Waugh, Worne, Gearey, Stephenson.

Saints: Rule; Ledger, Allen, Haggerty, Litherland; Peters, Smith; Grimes, Liptrot, Burke, Platt, Gorley, Pinner. Subs: Kevin Wellens, Round.