JOSH Emerton is under no illusions he will need his best cricket to maintain a place in a quality Merewether line-up. It was confirmed this week that the former University captain will join the defending premiers for the upcoming Newcastle district cricket season. Fellow Taree product Luke Bird, who is also a left-arm fast bowler, has taken over the captaincy from his long-time friend at University.&nbsp; &nbsp;Emerton met with Merewether captain Simon Moore at Monday’s night pre-season training session to discuss joining the Lions. The all-rounder’s decision to sign with the Lions will raise eyebrows around the competition. Merewether already boast a quality batting line-up including NSW Country reps Moore, Troy Goodwin and Pat Darwen, and proven stroke-makers Josh Geary, Jono Dunn and Dave Celep. Their bowling spearhead is former Australia A fast bowler Mark Cameron. ‘‘It’s good going to a strong club and, as Moorey said, everyone has to perform in the first grade to stay there on a regular basis,’’ Emerton said. ‘‘He indicated there’s a spot there for me at No.4 or No.5, so I’m looking forward to the new challenge.’’ It is the second time in two seasons that a former club captain has joined the back-to-back defending premiers. Last summer Celep quit Wallsend and joined Merewether.&nbsp; Emerton said he felt no animosity or sour grapes towards University. ‘‘They did a lot for my cricket, so I’ve got nothing but good things to say about the club in general,’’ he said. Under Emerton’s captaincy, Uni won their first premiership in 24 years in 2010-11 when they defeated Hamilton-Wickham in the final. He also helped turn the Sea Dragons into a consistently competitive unit, who qualified for the semi-finals three times in six seasons and finished no lower than sixth. Bird said Emerton was a massive loss, but Uni had the depth to cover him. ‘‘I’ve always been in the leadership group at the club, which is going to make the transition easier,’’ Bird said. ‘‘There’s a lot of experienced players in the team, so it won’t be too bad.’’ Bird said Emerton’s decision to join the Lions would add to the rivalry between the two clubs.&nbsp; ‘‘It will give a bit of meaning to the Merewether-University games, I think,’’ he said. ‘‘A few of the boys in our team can’t wait to see the draw.’’ &nbsp;● &nbsp;Meanwhile, Newcastle representative selectors have announced a 16-strong training squad for a Twenty20 match and a 50-over match, against the ACT Comets at Wallsend Oval on September14 and 15. New Toronto Workers opening batsman Greg Hunt and incoming Newcastle City captain-coach Mitchell Claydon are new inclusions in the squad. Squad: Mark Littlewood (c), &nbsp;Simon Moore, Mark Cameron, Dan Morton, Nick Foster, Greg Hunt, Josh Geary, Jace Lawson, Mark Dries, Ben Evans, Pat Darwen, Marcus Hainsworth, Sam Gilmour, Luke Bird, Mitchell Claydon and Jeff Goninan.