MORNING RUSH: news, sport, weather, traffic & online buzz

9am That's it from me this morning. I'll join you again tomorrow morning for the TGIF edition of the Rush. Have a great day!

8.57am Let's take a quick look at national news, courtesy of the SMH

*The Federal government has unveiled a $100 million package to create jobs for Holden workers facing redundancy but predicted an end to so-called corporate welfare, insisting struggling manufacturers must fend for themselves.

*The seemingly never-ending Rinehart saga has stepped up a notch, with Gina's youngest daughter Ginia releasing private emails sent by her brother John to their mother in which he described Ginia as "incompetent, craving attention and superficial". The net worth of Mrs Rinehart, Australia's richest person, this week fell $3 billion to $16.95 billion

*A group of female friends from the Gold Coast has won Tuesday night's $70 million Oz Lotto draw. They have vowed to split the money equally.

8.53 am Here's what's making headlines in today's Mercury:

*A new demolition date has been set for the Port Kembla stack, with plans to bring it down on February 20, five months later than originally planned.

*A Warilla real estate agent has confessed to fleecing cash from her company’s trust funds to subsidise a multimillion-dollar gambling habit. NSW Fair Trading alleges the total amount taken between 2010 and 2012 was more than $1.5 million, but the real estate agent's lawyer indicated she disputed that amount.

*Kiama Municipal Council has given the green light to Miltonbrook’s proposed 31-lot Chapel Hill subdivision at Jamberoo, a four-hectare site off Drualla Road that will sit behind Jamberoo Public School.

*Ten Illawarra students made this year's HSC all-rounder list, which recognises students who achieved the top band - at least 90 per cent - in 10 or more units of their HSC courses. Students recevied their HSC course marks yesterday and will be able to access their ATAR scores from 9am this morning.

8.50am Let's take a look at what's happening out there this morning

WEATHER: It’s going to be a hot one! Illawarra temps will reach between 28 and 34 degrees today and we’re in for a mostly sunny day. It’s currently 22 degrees in Wollongong. There might be some patchy fog around this morning, by the north and north-easterly winds will increase slightly this afternoon.

TRAFFIC: It’s looking clear from Nowra to Sydney this morning. There are a few accidents in Sydney affecting southbound traffic only, so Illawarra commuters should be fine.

TRAINS: There is good service on the South Coast Line.

8.47am We're giving away family passes to see the new film Walking with Dinosaurs: The Movie at Greater Union Wollongong or Shellharbour.

Head here to fill in the entry form for your chance to win. Entries close at 5pm this Sunday.

8.42am Be wary of animals on the road this Christmas as you drive to and from your celebrations this festive season. Streets with no lighting and bushland either side are hot spots for injured animals. 

8.36am Gilligan's Island fans, what do you think about plans for a film revival of the series?

8.28am Not everyone is keen to spread Christmas cheer during the festive season. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has warned people to watch out for fake delivery in the lead up to Christmas day.

Scammers contact victims posing as employees from a legitimate parcel delivery service, claiming to have made an unsuccessful attempt to deliver a package to your address and offer to redeliver at a convenient time in exchange for a fee, usually ranging from $10 to $30.

The aim is to trick you into handing over personal details such as your credit card or bank account numbers.

Stay alert, people

8.22am Well, this is sweet. Two brothers have visited Santa each year for 34 years.

8.18am LOCAL SPORT: Good luck to the Corrimal Cougars this weekend!

8.15am The countdown is on for almost 55,000 students across NSW eagerly awaiting their ATAR results. The rank is available from 9am on the University Admissions Centre website.

Good luck to all Illawarra students - you are all stars for making it this far already!

8.10am Pork noodles were the most-clicked dish on Good Food's website this year, followed closely by a Neil Perry lasagne and a pan-fried chicken with mustard cream sauce. These results aren't surprising, said recipe writer Jill Dupleix, because they are twists on traditional favourites.

What new recipes did you try in the kitchen this year? I learned that while I can make a great Mexican tomato soup, I cannot make chicken schnitzel. 

8.07am Lingerie football - are you for or against? Read one man's view on it here.

8.03am Let's take a look at national news, courtesy of the SMH

*The Federal government has unveiled a $100 million package to create jobs for Holden workers facing redundancy but predicted an end to so-called corporate welfare, insisting struggling manufacturers must fend for themselves.

*The seemingly never-ending Rinehart saga has stepped up a notch, with Gina's youngest daughter Ginia releasing private emails sent by her brother John to their mother in which he described Ginia as "incompetent, craving attention and superficial". The net worth of Mrs Rinehart, Australia's richest person, this week fell $3 billion to $16.95 billion

*A group of female friends from the Gold Coast has won Tuesday night's $70 million Oz Lotto draw. They have vowed to split the money equally.

8am Here's what's making headlines in today's Mercury:

*A new demolition date has been set for the Port Kembla stack, with plans to bring it down on February 20, five months later than originally planned.

*A Warilla real estate agent has confessed to fleecing cash from her company’s trust funds to subsidise a multimillion-dollar gambling habit. NSW Fair Trading alleges the total amount taken between 2010 and 2012 was more than $1.5 million, but the real estate agent's lawyer indicated she disputed that amount.

*Kiama Municipal Council has given the green light to Miltonbrook’s proposed 31-lot Chapel Hill subdivision at Jamberoo, a four-hectare site off Drualla Road that will sit behind Jamberoo Public School.

*Ten Illawarra students made this year's HSC all-rounder list, which recognises students who achieved the top band - at least 90 per cent - in 10 or more units of their HSC courses. Students recevied their HSC course marks yesterday and will be able to access their ATAR scores from 9am this morning.

7.57am Let's take a look at what's happening out there this morning

WEATHER: It’s going to be a hot one! Illawarra temps will reach between 28 and 34 degrees today and we’re in for a mostly sunny day. It’s currently 20 degrees in Wollongong. There might be some patchy fog around this morning, by the north and north-easterly winds will increase slightly this afternoon.

TRAFFIC: It’s looking mostly clear from Nowra to Sydney this morning. There are a few accidents in  Sydney affecting southbound traffic only, so Illawarra commuters should be fine.

TRAINS: There is good service on the South Coast Line.

7.52am TRAFFIC ALERT: A bus has broken down on South Dowling Street near Links Road at Moore Park, causing heavy traffic conditions. One of three southbound lanes are closed, so exercise caution.

7.48am Flower markets, fruit stalls and horse-drawn carriages could soon be a feature in Crown Street Mall.

Wollongong City Council's economic development team has submitted plans to scale back numerous controls on outdoor trading in the mall, between Kembla and Keira streets, as part of efforts to breathe life into the strip.

The proposed modification to the existing consent for traders wanting to operate in the mall would allow for more outdoor dining, an increased use of footpaths by pavement artists and performers, and more live or amplified music in the mall.

Read the full story here.

7.43am A five-second teaser for the next season of Game of Thrones! I'll take it!

7.35am LOCAL SPORT NEWS: Bulli Bowlers have finished in style this year, winning the NSW Club Challenge men's silver title at Warilla Bowling Club.

7.30am The film You've Got Mail was released 15 years ago today. While the title is now super outdated, we can all remember fondly back to a time when online dating meant emails, and not apps like Tinder.

7.27am Christmas trees getting a little boring for you? Will you go nuts if you see another retail worker wearing a Santa hat? Then check out this list of awesome, alternative celebration ideas.

7.24am It's the final Open Jam of the year at Howlin' Wolf Bar tonight, so you better get along!

7.20am University of Wollongong graduations continue today, with Bachelors of communication and media studies, law, primary education and arts among the many being handed out at three ceremonies today.

Yesterday's grads included Greg Forrest, a PE-health education lecturer at the University of Wollongong who graduated with a PhD on Wednesday in the same class as many of his physical and health education students yesterday.

7.17am SPORT NEWS: Australian cyclist Michael Rogers has been provisionally suspended by the sport's governing body after testing positive to the banned substance clenbuterol.

7.13am The best-dressed men on 2013. The general consensus seem to be facial hair plus a stylish suit gives you the greatest chance of making it onto the list.

7.10am All donations for the Shellharbour Mayor’s Giving Tree appeal can be placed on the giving box located on the ground floor at the Customer Care Desk at Stockland Shellharbour and under the giving tree which will be located on level one of Council’s Administration Building, Lamerton House. Donations will also be accepted at Blackbutt Youth Centre and at the public libraries throughout the city.

Residents are encouraged to leave any unwrapped gifts at any of the locations until 21 December 2013.St Vincent de Paul staff will distribute all gifts in the week before Christmas.

7.06am Let's take a look at national news, courtesy of the SMH

*The Federal government has unveiled a $100 million package to create jobs for Holden workers facing redundancy but predicted an end to so-called corporate welfare, insisting struggling manufacturers must fend for themselves.

*The seemingly never-ending Rinehart saga has stepped up a notch, with Gina's youngest daughter Ginia releasing private emails sent by her brother John to their mother in which he described Ginia as "incompetent, craving attention and superficial". The net worth of Mrs Rinehart, Australia's richest person, this week fell $3 billion to $16.95 billion

*A group of female friends from the Gold Coast has won Tuesday night's $70 million Oz Lotto draw. They have vowed to split the money equally.

7.03am Here's what's making headlines in today's Mercury:

*A new demolition date has been set for the Port Kembla stack, with plans to bring it down on February 20, five months later than originally planned.

*A Warilla real estate agent has confessed to fleecing cash from her company’s trust funds to subsidise a multimillion-dollar gambling habit. NSW Fair Trading alleges the total amount taken between 2010 and 2012 was more than $1.5 million, but the real estate agent's lawyer indicated she disputed that amount.

*Kiama Municipal Council has given the green light to Miltonbrook’s proposed 31-lot Chapel Hill subdivision at Jamberoo, a four-hectare site off Drualla Road that will sit behind Jamberoo Public School.

*Ten Illawarra students made this year's HSC all-rounder list, which recognises students who achieved the top band - at least 90 per cent - in 10 or more units of their HSC courses. Students recevied their HSC course marks yesterday and will be able to access their ATAR scores from 9am this morning.

7am Let’s see what’s happening on the roads and in the skies today

WEATHER: It’s going to be a hot one! Illawarra temps will reach between 28 and 34 degrees today and we’re in for a mostly sunny day. It’s currently 20 degrees in Wollongong. There might be some patchy fog around this morning, by the north and north-easterly winds will increase slightly this afternoon.

TRAFFIC: It’s looking mostly clear from Nowra to Sydney this morning. There are some emergency roadworks at Rockdale on the Princes Highway at Rockdale Plaza Drive that have closed one southbound lane of traffic, so Illawarra commuters should be fine.

TRAINS: There is good service on the South Coast Line.

6.58am O Come All Ye Faithful, there are Christmas carols on this weekend. Grab a rug and a picnic basket and head to the beautiful Botanic Garden in Wollongong this Saturday at 6pm to belt our your favourite tunes. There will be Christmas carolling and musical and dance performances from The Conservatorium of Music. Free entry!

6.54am The Great Train Robber, aka Ronnie Biggs, has died at the age of 84. Biggs helped pull off Britain's most famous crimes, and eluded Scotland Yard for decades. He was imprisoned in England when he returned there voluntarily in 2001, but was released on compassionate grounds in 2009.

6.50am December 19 babies - today you share your birthday with actors Alyssa Milano and Jake Gyllenhaal, magician Criss Angel and cricketer Ricky Ponting.

6.45am Cute animal pic time! It's a painting pig! Do you think his abilities are more or less impressive than Babe's?

6.41am TRAFFIC ALERT: Changed traffic conditions will be in place on Corrimal Street in Wollongong on Wednesday, January 15, between 7pm and 5am. The road is being resurfaced, and cars will be advised to a northbound detour via Georges Place, Cliff Road and Bourke Street during the work.

6.38am SPORT NEWS: At least two more players from Cronulla's 2011 playing squad have made inquiries about their legal position after the Sharks were provisionally fined $1 million amid NRL claims the embattled club had exposed players to "serious health risks".

6.35am LOCAL SPORT NEWS: Wollongong Hawk's star guard Rotnei Clarke has got an early Christmas surprise, with his fiancee Patricia Elliott flying in to meet him after four months apart.

6.32am Helensburgh's Mama Tree co-op has sprouted another branch, opening its first pop-up shop to encourage budding ‘‘mumpreneurs’’. They will take over the  old NRMA building on Park Street in Helensburgh this week, giving space to more than a dozen creative and craft sellers to show off their wares.

6.28am The Swedish publisher of the best-selling The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo trilogy said it has hired an author to write a sequel to the series by Stieg Larsson, who died in 2004. A risky move?

6.24am I do not like spiders, so I do not envy our photographer who took the photo for this story about the need to be on the look-out for funnel-web spiders this summer. Remember, if you are bitten by a snake or funnel-web apply firm pressure to the site with a pressure immobilisation bandage or your hands and seek medical help.

6.20am Today is world Regifting Day! So drag out that ugly vase your Aunt Muriel bought you for your wedding 10 years ago and rewrap for another unsuspecting recipient!

6.17am Reporter Louise Turk takes a look at the history and the future of Shell Cove in today's Mercury. What started as a beach known for it's good surfing breaks will eventually become the site of a marina 30 per cent bigger than Darling Harbour. Read the story here.

6.12 am Let's take a look at national news, courtesy of the SMH

*The Federal government has unveiled a $100 million package to create jobs for Holden workers facing redundancy but predicted an end to so-called corporate welfare, insisting struggling manufacturers must fend for themselves.

*The seemingly never-ending Rinehart saga has stepped up a notch, with Gina's youngest daughter Ginia releasing private emails sent by her brother John to their mother in which he described Ginia as "incompetent, craving attention and superficial". The net worth of Mrs Rinehart, Australia's richest person, this week fell $3 billion to $16.95 billion

6.06am Here's what's making headlines in today's Mercury:

*A new demolition date has been set for the Port Kembla stack, with plans to bring it down on February 20, five months later than originally planned.

*A Warilla real estate agent has confessed to fleecing cash from her company’s trust funds to subsidise a multimillion-dollar gambling habit. NSW Fair Trading alleges the total amount taken between 2010 and 2012 was more than $1.5 million, but the real estate agent's lawyer indicated she disputed that amount.

*Kiama Municipal Council has given the green light to Miltonbrook’s proposed 31-lot Chapel Hill subdivision at Jamberoo, a four-hectare site off Drualla Road that will sit behind Jamberoo Public School.

*Ten Illawarra students made this year's HSC all-rounder list, which recognises students who achieved the top band - at least 90 per cent - in 10 or more units of their HSC courses. Students recevied their HSC course marks yesterday and will be able to access their ATAR scores from 9am this morning.

6.02am Let’s see what’s happening on the roads and in the skies today

WEATHER: It’s going to be a hot one! Illawarra temps will reach between 28 and 34 degrees today and we’re in for a mostly sunny day. It’s currently 20 degrees in Wollongong. There might be some patchy fog around this morning, by the north and north-easterly winds will increase slightly this afternoon.

TRAFFIC: It’s looking mostly clear from Nowra to Sydney this morning. There are some emergency roadworks at Rockdale on the Princes Highway at Rockdale Plaza Drive that have closed one southbound lane of traffic, so Illawarra commuters should be fine.

TRAINS: There is good service on the South Coast Line.

6am Good morning! Kate Walsh is joining you for the tail end of the week.

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