MORNING RUSH: news, sport, weather and traffic

8.55am It's still wet outside, with lots of rain on the Bureau of Meteorology radar, but most of the traffic snarls have cleared up - although there's still a tree down on Macquarie Pass. 

Enjoy your day Morning Rushers, see you bright (or dark) and early tomorrow.

8.50am LATEST MH370 UPDATE

New satellite images have identified 122 objects in a 400-square-kilometre area of the Indian Ocean which Malaysian authorities believe are from the missing Malaysian airliner.

Meanwhile, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) has tweeted that three objects have been spotted in the search of the southern Indian Ocean.

"3 objects spotted in #MH370 search. Civil a/craft spotted 2 objects-likely rope. NZ P3K-a blue object. None relocated on further passes," AMSA tweeted. "None distinctive of #MH370 or satellite imagery."

8.45am We're having a debate in the Mercury newsroom about cooking and cleaning this morning.

My darling boyfriend - who is naturally much neater than me - does all the cleaning in our household, and I do all the cooking. Other girls in the office reckon I've got the better deal - but I say these jobs are equal.

What do you think?

8.40am LOCAL SPORT

It’s going to be a a massive weekend for Illawarra sports fans - with the Dragons, the Illawarra Cutters, Wollongong Hawks and South Coast Wolves playing at the WEC and WIN Stadium. 

Have you got your tickets?

The fun starts tomorrow at 8.00pm when the Dragons take on the Broncos.

Adam Pengilly has the latest on the upcoming game.

8.37am LOCAL NEWS:Veteran surfer feels lucky after Killalea accident.

A veteran of almost two decades in the sport, Lilly Pollard has waded out into the breaking waves thousands of times in her life. 

But even that familiarity and experience proved no advantage when a freak wave caught her by surprise at Mystics Beach on Tuesday morning, launching her head-first into a sand bank and breaking her back and neck.

After being winched from the Killalea State Park beach and airlifted to Wollongong Hospital, X-rays confirmed the serious injuries to her neck and back.

8.34am ROYAL COMMISSION 

Cardinal George Pell’s morality has come under sustained challenge at the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sex Abuse.

Pell said his instructions to "vigorously" and "strenuously" defend claims by John Ellis that he was abused were intended to discourage claimants, so they would "think clearly" before litigating against the church.

The Cardinal has defended disputing in court whether Mr Ellis was really abused. Pell said his lawyers assured him it was a “proper” legal tactic and Mr Ellis was a senior lawyer who would have understood he was not disbelieved.

He will be back on the stands at the commission today.

8.32am FLOODING NEWS

Yep, it's rained so the Illawarra Highway at Albion Park is flooded, and the frustration of the community continues to grow.

Alex Arnold reports:

In a situation that keeps on repeating, the flooding of the highway has once again caused traffic chaos for motorists travelling through Albion Park and Albion Park Rail.

It has been an issue for many years, but as the population and traffic volume increases in the area so too does the angst.

8.30am I know I've banged on about this a bit this morning, but look - even John Howard thinks knights and dames are anachronistic!

The SMH reports:

Former Liberal prime minister John Howard has disagreed with the decision to reinstitute knights and dames into the Australian honours system and said it was ''unlikely'' he would accept an offer of a knighthood should it be offered.

The Australian Financial Review reports that Mr Howard stood by his long-held view that such a move would be considered ''somewhat anachronistic'', even by conservatives.

8.25am Illawarra to Sydney commuters might be joined by the premier on their morning work run today.

8.22am LATEST FOREMAN MURDER NEWS

Court reporter Shannon Tonkin writes:

Michelle Sharon Proud has vigorously denied suggestions she helped kill Wollongong solicitor Katie Foreman because of a perceived debt she owed co-accused Wendy Anne Evans, a court has heard.

Proud spent a second day in the witness box on Wednesday fielding questions from the Crown prosecutor, as well as lawyers representing her de facto and fellow co-accused, Bernard Justin Spicer.

Under sustained cross-examination, Proud admitted she and Evans had been close, that their friendship had continued after Ms Foreman's October 2011 death, and that she had concocted a false story with Evans in order to distance themselves from the police investigation.

8.20 ENTERTAINMENT NEWS

We're pretty far away from Europe (although maybe a bit closer now that we've got our sirs and dames back!) but we'll be represented at Eurovision by Jessica Mauboy.

8.08am LOCAL HEADLINES

* Almost 16 years after floods devastated parts of Wollongong in 1998, some vulnerable parts of the city still do not have working risk management plans to deal with heavy rain.

*A two-year-old boy allegedly murdered by his mother had sustained serious injuries on multiple occasions, not only in the days leading to his death, Wollongong Local Court has heard.

* Bulli High School will remain closed for years 7 to 10 students on Thursday as clean-up and repairs continue after Monday night's severe storms damaged the school.

* He holds the city's most impressive title, but even Lord Mayor Gordon Bradbery has reservations about bringing knights and dames back to Australia.

8am Here are the essential details to get you on your way.

WEATHER Still looking pretty dark and dreary from my window, and there's still a lot of rain around the Illawarra region today. Tops of 22 degrees forecast around the region and it's already pretty close to that now. Despite the cooler temps, humidity levels sitting around 85 per cent at Bellambi and 100 per cent at Albion Park.

TRAFFIC There's a couple of hazards on the roads this morning:

- a tree has fallen on Macquarie Pass, causing disruptions to east bound traffic.

- flooding on the Illawarra Highway at Albion Park and some flooding on Fern Street at Gerringong.

TRAINS Good service on South Coast, Illawarra and most city lines at the moment. Only the Newcastle and Hunter lines have delays.

7.52am NATIONAL NEWS

Finance Minister Mathias Cormann has rejected Labor claims the sale of Medibank Private will increase the budget deficit, saying it is unsustainable to continually draw large dividends from the insurer.

The opposition’s finance spokesman Tony Burke says the government will lose annual dividends of up to $500 million by privatising Medibank, adding to the deficit.

But Senator Cormann hit back, saying Mr Burke’s comments ‘‘showed why Labor made such a mess of the budget’’.

- AAP

7.48am LOCAL NEWS

Three Cordeaux Heights boys have had their bikes and scooters stolen, and mum Leah Karlis thinks the council's kerbside rubbish pick-ups are to blame.

She raises an interesting point, claiming the garbage piles attract scavengers and thieves but I don't know - I'm inclined to blame the thieves who took the bikes rather than the poor old council for this one.

What do you think?

7.45am If you've got a long commute this morning and want something to settle in with, I highly recommend this piece by John Safran on the unsolved murder of a Tahmoor man.

7.41am WOMAN FINDS A HAT IN TREE and other important stories from British local press. Hilarious.

7.39 LOCAL NEWS

Girls who play team sports from a young age grow into healthier, smarter and happier children, according to University of Wollongong researchers.

UOW's Early Start Research Institute surveyed more than 4000 children between the ages of eight and 10, over a two-year period.

They found girls aged between 8 and 10 who played team sports continuously over that time had better physical health, goal-setting skills, and better performance at school.

7.33am FOOD NEWS

My mouth is watering just thinking about Sandygoodwich's monthly communal dinner, which is on tonight and tomorrow at the tiny West Wollongong cafe.

I can't believe I'm telling people about this, because spaces fill up quick enough as it is, but I reckon this place could be Wollongong's best kept food secret.

Every month, over two nights, there's a different theme for the dinner and lots of amazing dishes at two big communal tables. 

Tonight, it's cooking with alcohol. Amazing!

7.30am She's a republican, supporter of equal marriage rights, a fabulous feminist and, now, Australia's first dame in decades - farewell to Governor General Quentin Bryce.

7.24am FEDERAL POLITICS

Federal cabinet has forced George Brandis (he of the "people have the right to be bigots" statements) to soften his original proposal to loosen constraints on racist insults and hate speech.

In a lengthy cabinet meeting on Monday night - and amid growing backbench concerns - Senator Brandis watered down his proposals for changes to section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act.

SMH has the exclusive.

7.20am A couple of my teachers friends have reposted this newsclipping. Pretty funny and a very effective discipline system!

7.15am ENTERTAINMENT

One of my absolute favourite movies Mean Girls (up there with Clueless) celebrate's its 10th anniversary next month, which makes me feel very old indeed.

If you're scoffing and thinking a Lindsay Lohan flick can't possibly have merit, you definitely need to think again!

Happy anniversary Mean Girls, stop trying to make fetch happen.

7.11am FOREMAN MURDER TRIAL

The Mercury's court reporter Shannon Tonkin has been working from Sydney for the past few weeks to cover the Katie Foreman murder trial.

Here's the latest:

Michelle Sharon Proud has vigorously denied suggestions she helped kill Wollongong solicitor Katie Foreman because of a perceived debt she owed co-accused Wendy Anne Evans, a court has heard. Proud spent a second day in the witness box on Wednesday fielding questions from the Crown prosecutor, as well as lawyers representing her de facto and fellow co-accused, Bernard Justin Spicer.

7.08 LOCAL HEADLINES

* A knife-wielding woman tried to break into a wheelchair-bound man's Unanderra home on Tuesday night before threatening his heavily pregnant daughter, Wollongong Local Court has heard.

* Almost 16 years after floods devastated parts of Wollongong in 1998, some vulnerable parts of the city still do not have working risk management plans to deal with heavy rain.

* Bulli High School will remain closed for years 7 to 10 students on Thursday as clean-up and repairs continue after Monday night's severe storms damaged the school.

* He holds the city's most impressive title, but even Lord Mayor Gordon Bradbery has reservations about bringing knights and dames back to Australia, as do a number of other people in the region.

7.06am LOCAL SPORT

Sports journo Adam Pengilly has the latest on the upcoming St George Illawarra Dragons match at WIN Stadium tomorrow night.

7.00am Time to check the weather, traffic and trains.

WEATHER There's still a lot of rain around the Illawarra region today, with showers expected to continue until the weekend. Tops of 22 degrees forecast around the region, it's already pretty close to that now. Despite the cooler temps, humidity levels sitting around 85 per cent at Bellambi and 100 per cent at Albion Park, so it's pretty steamy out there.

TRAFFIC There's a couple of hazards on the roads this morning:

- a car breakdown on Mt Ousley - a different one from earlier - is affecting northbound traffic just past the New Mount Pleasant Rd overpass; 

- there's flooding on the Illawarra Highway at Albion Park and some flooding on Fern Street at Gerringong.

Be careful this morning commuters!

TRAINS Good service on South Coast, Illawarra and most city lines at the moment.

6.58am POLICE NEWS

Hog-tied, stripped naked from the waist and dumped face down and dead in the middle of a park for the first early morning walker and her dog to stumble upon.

Newcastle police are investigating the killing of a 52-year-old Mayfield man after his body was found lying in Thomas Armstrong Oval in Wickham on Wednesday morning.

6.55am #MH370

The latest on the Malaysian Airlines mystery is that satellite images have identified 122 objects in a 400-square-kilometre area of the Indian Ocean which Malaysian authorities believe are from the missing plane.

6.52am BREAKING INTERNATIONAL NEWS

Egypt's military chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has stepped downs, clearing the way for him to run for president.

6.47am LOCAL SPORT

It’s going to be a a massive weekend for Illawarra sports fans - with the Dragons, the Illawarra Cutters, Wollongong Hawks and South Coast Wolves playing at the WEC and WIN Stadium. 

Have you got your tickets?

The fun starts tomorrow at 8.00pm when the Dragons take on the Broncos.

6.42am With the change of season and all this rain around there's sure to be some sneezes and sniffles lurking.

Check out this infographic on the common cold:

6.40am FEDERAL POLITICS

Uh-oh, those naughty federal pollies have been reprimanded by Speaker Bronwyn Bishop for their "outbursts of infectious laughter" and giggling has been ruled as out of order.

6.35 PUPPY RESCUE

Naww, who doesn't love a puppy rescue. Check out the great work from the Illawarra Police Rescue Squad.

And all you puppies out there be careful! 

6.30am LOCAL NEWS

Speaking of Knights and Dames, it seems Wollongong's Lord Mayor and others in the Illawarra have had a bit of mixed reaction to the whole fiasco.

Josh Butler reports in today's Mercury:

He holds the city's most impressive title, but even Lord Mayor Gordon Bradbery has reservations about bringing knights and dames back to Australia.

"Instead of using old British words, I would have liked us to invent some of our own" - Gordon Bradbery

6.25am NATIONAL NEWS

I can't help but have a bit of a laugh about this whole Knights and Dames thing that the PM has brought back. Do we really need an ancient British recognition system for our best and brightest?

Some people are saying it's a well timed distraction from negative press about Arthur Sinodinos and George Brandis' comments about bigotry, while other people say it's a indication of the Real Tony Abbott.

I got a giggle out of this speech from Sam Dastyari:

6.20am FLOODING ON ILLAWARRA HIGHWAY

Yep, it's the notorious Illawarra road that closes just about every time we get heavy showers, and Alex Arnold reports in today's paper that residents of Albion Park are fed up:

Another downpour, another closure of the Illawarra Highway at Albion Park and the frustration of a community continues to grow. In a situation that keeps on repeating, the flooding of the highway has once again caused traffic chaos for motorists travelling through Albion Park and Albion Park Rail. It has been an issue for many years, but as the population and traffic volume increases in the area so too does the angst

6.15 BREAKING POLICE NEWS

Police report that two men were shot and wounded in a double shooting in Merrylands last night, in what they believe is linked to an armed robbery.

A man aged in his 20s was found with several gunshot wounds to his stomach and arm when police were called to a petrol station on the corner of Woodville and Merrylands Roads about 10.50pm. He is in a stable condition at Westmead Hospital.

Police also found a man in his 50s with a gunshot wound to his chest after they were called to Lansdowne Street. He underwent surgery and is listed as being in a critical but unstable condition at Westmead Hospital.

Investigators are looking for four males believed to be involved in the shootings. Two of the offenders are described as being of Mediterranean/Middle Eastern appearance, with a thin build and tattoos.

6.10 LOCAL NEWS Here's a taste of some of the stories in the Mercury today.

* Almost 16 years after floods devastated parts of Wollongong in 1998, some vulnerable parts of the city still do not have working risk management plans to deal with heavy rain.

*A two-year-old boy allegedly murdered by his mother had sustained serious injuries on multiple occasions, not only in the days leading to his death, Wollongong Local Court has heard.

*NSW Police Professional Standards Command has confirmed it is investigating a complaint against two Wollongong police officers.

6.05 - Here's what to look out for as you wake up and make your way to work today.

WEATHER There's still a lot of rain around the Illawarra region today, with showers expected to continue until the weekend. Top of 22 degrees forecast for today and it's already 21.8 at Bellambi, with humidity levels sitting around 85 per cent. At Albion Park it's 19.8 and humidity is 100 per cent - I'd recommend wearing your hair up today!

TRAFFIC There's a few hazards around the region this morning:

- a car breakdown on Mt Ousley affecting one lane of north bound traffic; 

- a fallen tree at Gwynneville on the F6 near Memorial Drive;

- some traffic lights flashing yellow at Lake Illawarra, Shellharbour Road near Pur Pur Ave affecting traffic in all directions;

- surprise surprise, there's flooding on the Illawarra Highway at Albion Park and some flooding on Fern Street at Gerringong.

Be careful on the roads in the rain this morning commuters!

TRAINS Good service on all lines at the moment.

6am Good morning early birds. Aren't these final days of daily savings making the mornings dark. Just a week and a half until clocks go back and we can wake up with the sunrise.

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