IT has been almost a decade since they won a top-grade trophy of any sort, but Newcastle City will take a nothing-to-lose attitude into Sunday's Summer Bash semi-final against minor premiers Hamilton-Wickham at Passmore Oval.
City learned this week that a belated readjustment of quotients meant they had qualified fourth for the T20 finals, rather than third, as was initially reported.
That means the Sabres will face the Pumas in Sunday's first semi at 9am, followed by second-placed Belmont Whips against third-placed Wests Rosellas at noon.
The two winning teams will meet in the 3pm decider, weather permitting. If rain prevents play, Sunday, February 23 has been set aside as a reserve day.
For City, reaching the play-offs has not only been the highlight of a tough year, it breaks a longstanding post-season drought.
Their last competition success was in 2010-11, when they won the Tom Locker Cup final. They made the two-day semi-finals that season, as well. Not since 1975-76 have they won a first-grade premiership.
Hamwicks, beaten finalists in the past two Summer Bash deciders, will start as hot favourites on Sunday but Sabres skipper Jonty Major said the Pumas held no fears for his team.
"We feel pretty confident, actually," Major said.
"The last game we played against them, it was pretty tight and we didn't play anywhere near our best.
"All our main players are in pretty good form. Our spinners are bowling really well and our batsmen are starting to get some scores, rather than just chipping in.
"So we're confident and hopefully we can get the job done when it counts."
When the two teams met in the opening Summer Bash round, the Pumas posted 7-135 and restricted the Sabres to 6-106 in reply.
City will again rely heavily on their marquee man, Dylan Hunter, for inspiration.
The former Newcastle representative all-rounder plays first grade for Randwick these days but has returned to help out his former club, scoring 110 runs and taking five wickets in their four qualifying games.
Their other marquee player, Irish T20 international Stephen Doheny, is unavailable after being called up to play against Namibia in an eight-match multi-format series in South Africa.
Major's brother Jesse has also featured prominently in this season's campaign, just as he did in their 2010-11 Locker Cup triumph.
Hamwicks, who this season retained their Locker Cup title, are aiming to become the first team to take out the short-format double.
"Hamwicks have played in a fair bit of finals cricket, but we're keen and excited and looking forward to turning up on Sunday," Jonty said.
* BELMONT-born fast bowler Greg West gave Blues selectors a reminder of his talent in Tuesday's tour match against England Lions at the SCG.
West, a former first-grader with Belmont and Newcastle City, was the NSW XI's leading wicket-taker with 3-58 from seven overs, as the visitors racked up 9-293 from their 50 overs.
The 25-year-old left-armer has played two Sheffield Shield matches for the Blues, taking eight wickets at an average of 23.87.
He also played in three Big Bash T20 games for the Adelaide Strikers and Sydney Sixers between 2016 and 2018.
Fellow Novocastrian Jason Sangha, who has spent much of this season on the outer, scored nine from 13 balls before he was trapped leg before by Lions skipper Lewis Gregory.
The tourists won by 52 runs.
* BELMONT rookie Joe Gillard will represent NSW in the Australian under-15 championships in Ballarat next week. The team will be coached by Newcastle-based Brett Rankin.
* A REMINDER that the benefit night for three City and Suburban cricketers - Rob Sneddon, Rob Tinworth and Simon Marks - who died during games last year, will be held on Friday week.
The fund-raiser, to be held at Club Macquarie, Argenton from 6pm, will be hosted by multi-media personalty Gus Worland. Former Test fast bowler Mike Whitney will be the guest speaker.
People interested in attending the evening, or donating items for auction, can contact Darren Linsley (0402 029917), Dan Saunders (0448 296269) or Ray Rutten (0421 421906).
* THEY played countless first-grade and Tom Locker Cup finals against each other, back in the day.
Now old rivals Merewether and Hamilton-Wickham look set to lock horns in next week's Gary Gilmour Cup (over-35) semi-finals.
Undefeated in their first five games, Merewether are assured of finishing as minor premiers after their final-round fixture, against Newcastle City at Townson, was washed out on Wednesday.
Hamwicks were set to finish fourth.
Wests, whose last-round clash with Charlestown was also called off because of an unplayable pitch, were poised to place second, with Toronto third.
The Merewether team, captained by Chad White, contains multiple title winners from a bygone era, including Troy Goodwin, Neil Crittenden and former Australia A paceman Mark Cameron.
Cameron sends them down at a more leisurely pace these days, in his new career as a leg spinner.
The Lions should need no introduction to their opponents in the Hamwicks line-up. The likes of Rhys Soper, Darren Herbert, Shane Hughes, Steve Mudford and Steve Cowan are all former long-term first-graders.
The two old sparring partners clashed in round two of the season, at Passmore Oval back in December, and Merewether enjoyed a comprehensive victory (6-110 to 83). Hamwicks have won the past two over-35 deciders and Merewether were the inaugural champions, in 2016-17.