MEREWETHER have the opportunity to atone for last season's only blemish after earning a place in the SCG Country Cup final.
The defending Newcastle district two-day, 50-over and Twenty20 champions will face Albury-Wodonga in the February 3 final at the hallowed turf of the SCG after beating Lake Illawarra by 101 runs yesterday in their semi-final at Woongarrah Oval, Warnervale.
After the match was reduced to 44 overs a side due to damp bowling run-ups, Merewether made 6-264 led by a Josh Geary century.
In reply, Lake Illawarra always struggled and were dismissed for 163 in the 38th over.
Geary's 107 off 125 balls, made in stifling conditions, was an impressive return to form for the opening batsman.
He built an opening stand of 76 with Jono Dunn (33 off 48 balls), before linking with skipper Simon Moore (53 off 47 balls) in a second-wicket partnership of 86.
Since Geary returned home from a stint in Scotland in October, the Maitland product has struggled with illness and his batting has suffered.
"It's been bit of an indifferent season, missing a couple of games and being crook," Geary said. "It was about time something like this started happening again."
A "stiff and sore" Geary then claimed 3-38 off nine overs of medium pace to complete his man-of-the-match effort.
Merewether opening bowlers Sam Gilmour (3-11 off six overs) and Mark Cameron (2-17 off 6.3) were also damaging.
Lake Illawarra were still in the hunt at 2-103 in the 28th over when David Celep ran out Tony McCabe for 52.
The Wollongong boys then capitulated quickly.
In last year's final, Queanbeyan (8-165) beat Merewether (163).
The Lions last won the state knockout in 2007-08 and have lost two finals since, but Geary denied past defeats were driving this year's campaign.
"I think the loss was more of a motivator last year to go on and win everything else," he said. "We've just continued basically where we've left off and want to win everything that we're in."
Hamilton-Wickham will have plenty of motivation for the rest of the Newcastle district season after their shock semi-final loss to Albury Wodonga yesterday at Sohier Park, Ourimbah.
Hamwicks made 9-161 and the Riverina boys cruised to 5-163 in the 47th over.
The Hamwicks top order again failed and new recruit Mark Dries made a second duck for the club in two games.
At 6-75, Hamilton-Wickham appeared headed for disaster before captain Kirk Mullard made 64 not out.
Batsman Luke Restall showed why he fetched the highest bid, $5000, at last month's auction to launch the Albury-Wodonga's Charity Big Bash when he scored a match-winning 58.
Matt Webber (4-20 of 10 overs) worked tirelessly for Hamwicks, but the bowling attack never had enough never runs to defend.