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

9am That's it from us this morning. See you tomorrow!

8.53am Dragons player Matt Cooper has hit the open road with league mates Nathan Hindmarsh and Brad Fittler for NSW Rugby League's Hogs for Homeless ride, which raises money forFather Chris Riley and his ‘Youth off the Streets’ team. 

8.46am A little bit of laneway music coming to Woonona. Nice. 

8.41am Steve the chimney sweep, a contestant on Channel Nine's The Block: Fans v Faves, has had a spray about the way he is being portrayed on the show as - in his words - "mentally deficient". 

8.35am "Six months of experimentation went into trying to mix a blend of clay and synthetic material that complies with MLB standards," writes Michael Chammas at the SMH, on the transformation of the iconic Sydney Cricket ground into a baseball pitch fit for the visiting Los Angeles Dodgers and the Arizona Diamondbacks.

8.32am A bullet was fired into a home on Cowper Street at Port Kembla home on Tuesday. Details: bit.ly/1mCIa0u

8.29am Applications are open for the latest round of funding from Culture Bank Wollongong, which crowd-sources funds to give to area creatives. 

8.24am The NSW Federal Court will consider two Schapelle Corby-related cases today. Corby's sister Mercedes has begun legal action against the Australian Federal Police. She lodged documents on Wednesday, the day after Seven West Media announced it would sue the AFP following raids at Seven's Sydney HQ involving up to 30 officers, who were allegedly looking for proof of a possible interview deal with Corby. Both matters will be heard by Justice Jayne Jagot today - SMH.

8.19am CELEB NEWS Cate Blanchett has to pay to see her Oscar from The Aviator as it's kept in a Melbourne museum. And Emma Thompson stows her little gold men in her bathroom. Where the stars keep their Oscarsbit.ly/1dAICpQ

8.14am NSW will become the first state where motorcyclists can legally ride in between cars, as of July. The move is part of new measures to ease traffic congestion, and comes after a successful two month trial - SMH.

8.12am CELEB GOSS “I’m single. I’m not seeing anyone, not dating anyone, I haven’t got the hots for anyone" - Shane Warne on Triple M Melbourne, Wednesday. Ladies, get in line. 

8.07am "A man and a woman have confessed to carrying out a "vicious, unprovoked" assault at Wollongong Railway Station last October that left a refugee in hospital," writes Shannon Tonkin from Wollongong Court yesterday. Full story: bit.ly/NxIMYG

8.02am Good morning, if you're just joining us. 

TRAINS There's good service on the South Coast line. Some delays are continuing on the Blue Mountains line though, for anyone heading that way. 

ROADS Illawarra roads are looking clear. An earlier blockage to a lane on Five Islands Road at Port Kembla has cleared. Scheduled works are happening on Mount Ousley Rd at the Picton Road northbound on-ramp. Light vehicles travelling north on Mount Ousley road will be detoured via Mount Keira Rd and Clive Bissel Dr. Heavy vehicles will need to use the Hume Hwy or Appin Rd.

WEATHER We're in for a mostly cloudy day hitting 20 at most, with a few showers, mostly in the morning. Right now it's 17.5 in Albion Park, 20 at Bellambi and 19 at Kiama. 

7.58am Tomorrow's your last chance to order one of the Mercury's "Fall of an Icon" Stack t-shirts. They're $25. To order, email your name, contact details and shirt size toscoop@illawarramercury.com.au by 5pm tomorrow.

7.50am UOW's Goodwill Hunting event is on today. It's where UOW staff donate furniture and household items for students moving out of home for the first time. Awww - quite sweet.

7.45am What if Google was a Guy? This vid is going gangbusters on YouTube.

7.39am A Facebook page has sprung in support of the Births, Deaths and Marriages office on Kembla Street, which is to close for good on March 28, sending five jobs to Sydney. 

7.34am A California couple and their dog found $10 million in rare, mint-condition gold coins, buried in the shadow of an old tree - an incredible story!

7.29am I give you: Gerroa surf star Sally Fitzgibbons looking smoking ahead of last night's World Surfing Awards. 

7.21am Have you visited the new bakery joint behind the IPAC, Three Chimneys, yet? It's a proper bakery, with real croissants and everything - just what Wollongong needed. Their dinner menu looks pretty good too - delish. 

7.16am "Within six months the state government will be making $1 million a week out of expensive train fares to Sydney Airport, but it continues to insist fares should not be lowered," writes the SMH. A parliamentary committee will soon report on proposals to lower the cost of catching a train to the airport. An ''access fee'' charged by the private operators of the stations adds $12.60 to the cost of an adult train ticket to the airport. bit.ly/1hU2lrY

7.06am "He bought medals off Trade Me, pinned them to his chest and made up elaborate tales about life as an SAS soldier." New Zealand man Yordan Militch has admitted he pretended to be a decorated SAS soldier - bit.ly/1ewU5q7

7.01am Good morning, if you're just joining us. A quick update: 

TRAINS There's good service on the South Coast line. Some delays are continuing on the Blue Mountains line though, for anyone heading that way. 

ROADS Illawarra roads are looking clear. An earlier blockage to a lane on Five Islands Road at Port Kembla has cleared. Scheduled works are happening on Mount Ousley Rd at the Picton Road northbound on-ramp. Light vehicles travelling north on Mount Ousley road will be detoured via Mount Keira Rd and Clive Bissel Dr. Heavy vehicles will need to use the Hume Hwy or Appin Rd.

WEATHER We're in for a mostly cloudy day hitting 20 at most, with a few showers, mostly in the morning. Right now it's 17 in Albion Park and 19 at Bellambi and Kiama. 

6.56am The two men who hacked to death a young soldier in Woolwich in south London last year have been sentenced to life in prison. One of them will die in jail, after a judge set to the highest possible prison term: whole of life. And the other will be an old man before he can possibly be released. Full story here - bit.ly/1hhd4tD

6.51am CELEB NEWS Katy Perry has upset some of her Muslim audience a new music video featuring "blasphemous" content. In the video for her hit Dark Horse, Perry plays an Egyptian queen who can zap her subjects with lightning, turning them into sand. She has offended Muslims by killing a man who is wearing a pendant which says Allah in Arabic. The jewellery item is also zapped.

6.46am I can't believe they've made another Wolf Creek movie - I'm still having nightmares about the first one. Apparently Margaret and David from ABC's At the Movies feel similarly - they have somewhat controversially opted not to review the film, which hit the top spot at its Aussie box office at its debut last weekend. 

6.41am "After beating the Hawks earlier in the season, the 36ers copped a 102-80 mauling three weeks ago in Wollongong, a boil-over no-one saw coming," writes our basketball reporter Tim Keeble, in this backgrounder on the Hawks v Adelaide gamebit.ly/1hzxH2v.

6.36am The Wollongong Hawks will be at Shellharbour Footlocker to meet fans on the eve of the team's all-important game against Adelaide at the WEC. 

6.31am "In an act the tenacious heroine of Matilda might applaud, the NSW government has secured the Australian premiere of the acclaimed musical, beating major events rival Victoria," writes the SMH. The Royal Shakespeare Company's adaptation of the cherished Roald Dahl novel  will open at the Sydney Lyric Theatre from August 2015.

6.26am The World Health Organisation has declared a crisis in China, where pollution levels are 20 times the safe limit. In Beijing the air tastes gritty and you can only see a few hundred metres into the distance, due to the thickness of the smog. Yyyuck. 

6.21am NATIONAL HEADLINES

* Government plans to unshackle Qantas from foreign ownership restrictions could clear the way for the airline to shift jobs overseas and outsource maintenance - SMH

* Barry O’Farrell has been forced to admit he ‘‘dropped in’’ on a meeting attended by Nick Di Girolamo and Chris Hartcher, whose relationship is being examined as part of a major corruption inquiry.

* The Coalition will target a near-doubling of the defence budget to $50 billion within a decade, under directions given to the authors of a white paper to be announced next month - The Australian

* A Federal Government review of last week's violence at the Manus Island Detention Centre will assess intelligence gathered before the incidents as well as the service provider's ability to manage protests - ABC

6.16am Police are encouraging Illawarra families to have a talk about stranger danger with their kids after a number of recent concerning encounters. Four children have been approached - sometimes offered lifts, or lollies - in suspicious circumstances since Sunday. It is not known if any of the cases are linked.

6.10am The Bandaged Bear Appeal launches today, raising money for The Children's Hospital at Westmead. Dig deep. 

6.04am Let's take a look at what's making news locally. 

* Shellharbour Deputy Mayor Paul Rankin has survived a no confidence motion sparked by an incident at a recent community meeting where he publicly threatened his former Liberal running mate, Harry Gooden. bit.ly/1hzreER

An independent planning assessor has been appointed to oversee the proposed Bass and Flinders Gateway complex on the former Quattro site (kind of opposite Collegians) in Wollongong's CBD. bit.ly/ODgZqR

* The NSW Health Services Union has threatened statewide strike action if the state government refuses to reverse its decision to close Port Kembla Hospital's food production unit at the cost of 30 jobs. bit.ly/1fUh9ju

A Windang man has walked free from court after being handed a suspended sentence for causing a three-vehicle accident at Yallah in which an elderly woman was killed and two men permanently injured. Read more: bit.ly/1hTBRH2

6.02am First things first here's what's happening on our trains, roads and weather radar.

TRAINS There's good service on the South Coast line. Major delays on the Blue Mountains line though, for anyone heading that way. 

ROADS Illawarra roads are looking clear. Two of the three westbound lanes on Five Islands Road at Port Kembla, near Horne Street, are closed while an electricity pole is being replaced. 

Scheduled works are happening on Mount Ousley Rd at the Picton Road northbound on-ramp. Light vehicles travelling north on Mount Ousley road will be detoured via Mount Keira Rd and Clive Bissel Dr. Heavy vehicles will need to use the Hume Hwy or Appin Rd.

WEATHER We're in for a mostly cloudy day hitting 20 at most, with a few showers, mostly in the morning. Right now it's 16.5 in Albion Park, 19 in Bellambi and 20 in Kiama. 

6am Good morning, Illawarra. It's Thursday, February 27. Welcome to another day. 

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