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

8.41am That's it from us this morning. See you tomorrow for Tuesday's edition of the rush.

8.30am BREAKING: It is feared properties have been destroyed in an out-of-control blaze that burnt through southern NSW yesterday. The grassfire started just before 6pm last night and quickly scorched almost 200 hectares of grassland along the Hume Highway just south of Yass. More than 40 trucks and three aircraft were working to contain the blaze, which shut northbound lanes on the highway for a couple of hours.‘‘It escalated very quickly as grassfires do,’’ Rural Fire Service (RFS) spokesman Joel Kursawe told AAP today. Firefighters got the blaze under control at about 10pm, with the watch and act alert cancelled.

8.19am Love this story from the Herald's Daily Life section - is encouraging staff to wear gym clothes to work a good idea? Personally, I'm all for it - it would save me SO much time in the morning and would make going to the gym during the day even easier. Plus it's so comfy. What do you think? Email us at morningrush@illawarramercury.com.au

8.14am Does anyone else return from annual leave with a buttload of emails to check? Seriously, I've had two weeks off and I have like 300 unread emails. And I deleted some during the break. Grrrrr. Tanty over.

8.11am LOCAL NEWS: Two men have been charged over alleged false prescription incidents in Moss Vale. On December 24 last year, police were notified of a number of incidents where suspicious prescriptions were submitted for processing at chemists in Moss Vale and Mittagong. Police have arrested two men, aged 23 and 36. They are due to face court later this year.

8.09am STRANGE BUT TRUE: A Darwin gym boss has told a client she belongs in a strip club and needs to wear longer shorts if she wants to work out at his gym again.Physiotherapist Maja Lukic, 25, said she was wearing a pair of Puma gym shorts and a tank top when she was stopped by a manager mid-workout and told her outfit was unacceptable at Snap Fitness Yarrawonga last Thursday.

8.07am Don't forget that the Toddlers High Tea is on this morning at the Lagoon Seafood Restaurant from 9.30am. Bookings essential, call 4226 1677.

8.05am Have you downloaded the Mercury's iphone app yet? It's free and it's a great way to get all the latest news on the go.

8.03am It's back to work this week for many of us & back into routine. If you're feeling a little uninspired in the kitchen or just want to get organised, here's a weekly meal planner to point you in the right direction!

8.01am Have you been snapped out and about in the Illawarra? Check out our gallery of social pics here and see if you spot some familiar faces.

7.59am WORLD NEWS: A lawyer who blew JK Rowling's cover when she wrote a detective novel under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith has been fined 1,000 pounds ($A1,846) and received a written warning from a British legal watchdog. (SMH)

7.57am Here's what's making news in your Mercury today:

*Wollongong restaurant Rocksalt Bar and Grill has ceased operating and was handed over to administrators on Friday.

*Illawarra commuters will start paying more for their train tickets from this week, with fare increases having come into effect from yesterday.

*While warm, if somewhat windy, weather drew thousands of people to the Illawarra's beaches over the weekend, surf life savers said they had a relatively quiet time with few incidents to report.

7.55am Good morning Illawarra! Happy Monday! If you're just tuning in, here's your weather & transport information for the morning..

WEATHER It's shaping up to be a sunny day with a top of 23 degrees. There will be some light winds this morning and later this afternoon. Fire danger is very high. Right now, it's 22 degrees in Bellambi and 18 in Albion Park.

TRAFFIC Everything looks a-okay on the region's roads.There is some heavy traffic at Arncliffe (near the airport's international terminal). Expect delays and leave plenty of travel time.

TRAINS There is a good service on the South Coast line.

7.52am BREAKING: A plane has crashed at Aspen Airport in Colorado. Early reports suggest there were no survivors.

7.50am Have you been following our Little People, Big Ideas series? Reporter Gemma Khaicy has another great story on some star readers from Shellharbour Public School. Check it out here.

7.48am WORLD NEWS: The Abbott government has expressed ''deep concern'' and experts have warned of a lengthy sectarian conflict across the Middle East after fighters linked to al-Qaeda seized the city of Fallujah.

7.46am CELEB GOSS ALERT: If you missed this one late last week, Big Bang Theory star Kaley Cuoco tied the knot with her beau in a gorgeous pink frock.

7.44am MOVIE NEWS: Saving Mr Banks opens this Thursday-and it's already garnering great reviews. There is Oscar buzz surrounding Emma Thompson's portrayal of Mary Poppins creator P L Travers. Don't miss it!

7.40am NATIONAL NEWS: A blaze on North Stradbroke Island has already burnt through 9000 hectares. Firefighters are working to strengthen containment lines (Nine News)

7.38am BREAKING: Shaun McNeil, the man accused of punching Daniel Christie in Kings Cross, is due back in court today.

7.36am Read this really interesting piece in the Herald yesterday - this bloke gave up sex for a year and raised more than $50,000 for his efforts. Plus, he realised he had been "completely shallow" about women. Wins all round!

7.34am TV ALERT: There looks to be some GREAT Aussie-made TV coming to our screens in 2014. I saw the preview for the INXS mini-series over the weekend and it looks fantastic. Can't wait!

7.32am Did you head along to Summernats? I'm not personally a car enthusiast (my knowledge is pretty much "engine makes car go fast") but by all accounts, the annual event was still a burn-out fest.

7.30am WORLD NEWS: 300 flood alerts are in place across England & Wales with road closures along the Thames River (Nine News)

7.26am Did you miss last week's major stories? Don't fret, we've got you covered - check out the week's top 10 stories from the Merc here.

7.24am TECH BUZZ: Apple has acquired an Australian entrepreneur's smartphone app that turned the iPhone 5 into a full action camera capable of shooting 20 high-quality photos in one second. (SMH)

7.22am Don't forget to tune into Pulse 94.1 each hour to hear the latest news from the Morning Rush - along with the dulcet tones of my "radio" voice. Ha! 

7.16am SPORT: Mitchell Johnson vindicated Michael Clarke's deep show of faith in him by turning in some of the most lethal spells of pace bowling the captain has seen and claiming the man-of-the-series award in Australia's Ashes whitewash.

7.14am CELEB GOSS ALERT: People, brace yourselves. There are rumours doing the rounds that Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez have reunited. And if Instagram is anything to go by, those pesky rumours could be a little bit true!

7.12am Have you checked out our Then & Now galleries? There are some awesome photos of the Illawarra over the years, showing just how much things have changed! Check them out here.

7.10am WORLD NEWS: Nigella Lawson says she has eaten a lot of chocolate since the “mortifying” experience of having her private life put on display during the fraud trial of two former assistants.

7.08am Want to win tickets to see the Great Gatsby at the Sunset Cinema? Enter our competition here. Quick, entries close on Sunday.

7.06am LOCAL SPORT: Aaron Teys celebrated a near-flawless South Pacific carnival on his home Warilla green by winning the singles and pairs and claiming the Player of the Carnival award.

7.04am Read this one in the Herald's Traveller section yesterday - apparently, there is a pool in Helsinki where naked lap swimming is normal. I don't even want to think about it!

7.02am MOVIE GOSS: The F-bomb was dropped so many times in the new movie, The Wolf of Wall Street, that it broke a record for swearing in films.

7am It's a great day to visit the Illawarra's beaches! Beachwatch NSW has just tweeted that all Illawarra swimming spots look great. Nice! 

6.58am Only one week to go until the Golden Globe awards - will you be watching? If you've got Foxtel, tune into Fox 8 or E! for all the red carpet action & the ceremony. Otherwise, visit the rush - we will live blog what we can - or check out the highlights on YouTube.

6.56am POLITICS: Opposition Leader Bill Shorten will launch his political year with a cost-of-living attack on the government, centering on its plan to cut the schoolkids bonus being doled out to more than 1 million families in mostly safe Labor electorates this week. (SMH)

6.54am Here's what's making news in your Mercury today:

*Wollongong restaurant Rocksalt Bar and Grill has ceased operating and was handed over to administrators on Friday.

*Illawarra commuters will start paying more for their train tickets from this week, with fare increases having come into effect from yesterday.

*While warm, if somewhat windy, weather drew thousands of people to the Illawarra's beaches over the weekend, surf life savers said they had a relatively quiet time with few incidents to report.

6.52am Good morning Illawarra! Happy Monday! If you're just tuning in, here's your weather & transport information for the morning..

WEATHER It's shaping up to be a sunny day with a top of 23 degrees. There will be some light winds this morning and later this afternoon. Fire danger is very high. Right now, it's 21 degrees in Bellambi and 15 in Albion Park.

TRAFFIC Everything looks a-okay for the drive to Sydney and on the region's roads.

TRAINS There is a good service on the South Coast line.

6.50am LOCAL SPORT: Lake Illawarra's Sydney FC star Caitlin Foord has bagged her maiden W-League goal hat-trick as the defending champions routed Perth Glory 8-2 at home.

6.48am WORLD NEWS: Portuguese football legend Eusebio, who was the top scorer in the 1966 World Cup, died yesterday at the age of 71 years, his former club Benfica confirmed.

6.46am STRANGE BUT TRUE: A US woman has found her missing engagement ring - six years later!

6.44am Did you attend yesterday's Jane McGrath day at the SCG? What a treat it was to see the whole ground awash with pink. Such a great cause - congrats to all who donned pink for the day. And a HUGE congrats to the Aussies for their 5-0 whitewash of the Poms!

6.42am LOCAL NEWS: More than 200 competitors took part in the George Bass Surf Marathon on Saturday - with some company from the sea. Ski paddlers and rowing crews reported seeing a whale, five or six sharks along the way and a flying fish hit a rower right in the head.

6.40am NATIONAL NEWS: Mystery continues over the "freakish" death of a QLD mother and daughter in Bali. Read more here.

6.38am It's that time of the year again when we all vow to eat healthy, exercise and lose those dreaded holiday kgs. If you're loathe to give up your favourite dishes, check out these recipes for healthy alternatives to your much-loved comfort foods.

6.36am LOCAL SPORT: NSW completed a stunning double at the Australian indoor hockey titles at Unanderra on Sunday.

6.32am WORLD NEWS: Thousands of protesters firebombed polling stations and stole ballot papers as deadly violence flared across Bangladesh on Sunday during an election boycotted by the opposition. Police said at least 13 people had been killed and more than 200 polling stations were set on fire or trashed by mobs in a bid by the opposition to wreck the one-sided contest.

6.30am Looking for an awesome travel destination this year? Lonely Planet has compiled its list of top spots for 2014. 

6.28am LOCAL NEWS: Wollongong bars, cafes and media outlets faced off on Sunday in a heated competition at Globe Lane. But instead of a cook-off, teams from the local businesses stepped onto a makeshift court and played each other in a knock-out basketball tournament. Check out all the action & pics here.

6.26am LOCAL SPORT: If Rotnei Clarke’s critics needed any more convincing of his capabilities, the Wollongong Hawks guard provided another breathtaking display on Saturday night at WIN Entertainment Centre. Clarke was magnificent in his team’s stunning 96-91 overtime victory over perennial heavyweights Perth, hitting 6/10 three-point bombs on the way to a game-high 28 points.

6.24am BREAKING: Police are appealing for witnesses to come forward after a crash at Helensburgh yesterday. Officers believe a 58-year-old man was riding his bike south along the Old Princes Highway about 6.15am yesterday when he was struck by a vehicle. The man was found injured next to the roadway by a group of other cyclists. He remains in intensive care in a stable condition. Wollongong police are appealing for anyone who may have witnessed the incident to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.

6.22am The Mercury’s sport journos will be launching some new columns this year. Watch out for some great new content!

6.20am CELEB GOSS ALERT: Kim Kardashian is back posting pics of her bod on Instagram. The reality TV star posted a selfie of her toned bod, post birth to baby North.

6.18am Looks like 2014 is going to be all about shades of blue and lemon, interval training and the rise of the dreaded burpee. Read more about this year's trend predictions here.

6.16am Looking for something to do these school holidays? Check out our school holiday guide here.

6.14am CELEB GOSS ALERT: Singer Ke$ha has checked herself into rehab for an eating disorder.

6.12am SPORT: Lleyton Hewitt downed Roger Federer in the finals of yesterday's tournament in Brisbane.

6.09am CELEB GOSS ALERT: We're just days into 2014 and we've already got news of another celebrity couple heading for splitsville. Sad news for this The Voice coach.

6.07am Here are today's national headlines (from the SMH):

*It was fitting that the SCG was a sea of pink to match the blushes on the faces of England’s cricketers, as Australia capped off a memorable Ashes series with a crushing 5-0 whitewash.

*For months, members of the Indian and Muslim communities in Sydney tried to help Monika Chetty who was found severely burnt and is in an induced coma.

*A second teenager was in a coma yesterday after his skull was fractured in another one-punch attack on Sydney’s streets.

*According to expatistan.com, Sydney is the 11th-priciest city in the world, but 25 per cent cheaper than first-placed London, based on groceries, electronics, rent and other everyday items.

6.05am Let's have a look at what's making news in your Mercury today:

*Wollongong restaurant Rocksalt Bar and Grill has ceased operating and was handed over to administrators on Friday.

*Illawarra commuters will start paying more for their train tickets from this week, with fare increases having come into effect from yesterday.

*While warm, if somewhat windy, weather drew thousands of people to the Illawarra's beaches over the weekend, surf life savers said they had a relatively quiet time with few incidents to report.

6.03am If you're just tuning in, let's check out all the weather, traffic and trains today.

WEATHER It's shaping up to be a sunny day with a top of 23 degrees. There will be some light winds this morning and later this afternoon. Fire danger is very high. Right now, it's 20 degrees in Bellambi and 12 in Albion Park.

TRAFFIC Everything looks a-okay for the drive to Sydney and on the region's roads.

TRAINS There is a good service on the South Coast line.

6am Good morning Illawarra! Happy Monday! Your host Emma Spillett is back after a lovely two-week break, which included a camping trip, two days at the cricket and ... I GOT ENGAGED! Yep, I'm heading down the aisle in 2015. Hope you all had a lovely Christmas and new year - stay with me this morning for all the latest news and goss.

Smartphone
Tablet - Narrow
Tablet - Wide
Desktop