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

8.58am - alright Rushers, that's it from your old mate Josh Butler. Emma Spillett is back on deck tomorrow, but I'll be taking the reins again before too long. Enjoy your Monday! Over and out.

8.55am - let's recap the news headlines one last time! Drop by your local newsagent to pick a few copies of the paper (one for you, one for your mum, one for the office, a spare, and an emergency spare), but for a little taster of what you can expect:

* Woonona junior footy player Adrian will have to wait a year for surgery on his ruptured ACL because the sport doesn't have good enough insurance to cover the procedure, reports Jodie Duffy

* Beloved movie actor Richard Attenborough has died in London, aged 90.

* The local netball community is in mourning today after Fairy Meadow player Beth Leske collapsed during a game at Fred Finch Park on Saturday, and later died in hospital. 

8.50am - almost time for us to part ways, loyal Rush viewers. As we start to wrap up, take a tune from my own personal library (i.e. iPhone). Royal Blood, a bass guitar/drums duo from England, have been tearing it up lately - pumping this tune, 'Hole,' at full volume in my car was the sole reason I did not fall asleep at the wheel at 5.15am this morning.

8.48am - The Cronulla Sharks accepted bans from ASADA last week and will soon start their suspensions, but Essendon AFL coach James Hird has returned to work this morning after serving his own 12-month ban. Says he is "excited to be back."

8.45am - going to school or work today? Still haven't left the house? That last-minute rush is always an invigorating way to start the morning, so here's the Twitter version (i.e. 140 characters or less) rundown of what you need to know:

"Roads: fine, no accidents to report. Trains: A-OK, no delays. Weather: 17 degrees, showers later." 

But really, you need to leave right now otherwise you're not making it where you need to be by 9am. I've been at work for hours. Get out of bed.

8.40am - the earthquake in California has left hundreds injured and thousands of homes without power, but you've got to admire these guys for making the best of a bad situation

8.35am - a cool event for beachbums up at Anita's Theatre on Friday, with the premiere of the SPLIT bodyboarding film. Put together by surf bible Le Boogie, the film will be shown in Thirroul and accompanied by live bands Hockey Dad, The Ocean Party and Jon Dory. Tickets are $15 on the door, or online here.

8.32am - Monday also marks the start of Keep Australia Beautiful week. See some rubbish lying around? Take a second and put it in the bin. Getting a delicious cupcake from the Red Cross bake sale? Dispose of that wrapper thoughtfully, once you've licked all the icing from the patty-pan. It's all part of the master plan.

8.30am - Today is the Red Cross Big Cake Bake, a delicious community fundraiser for the charity. Good an excuse as any to indulge your sweet tooth! Keep an eye out for bake sale stalls and treat yourself to a Mars Bar slice or two

8.15am - have you SEEN the amount of entertainers coming to the 'Gong in coming months? Heaps going on; Tina Arena, comedian Dave Hughes, The Wiggles and Guy Sebastian are playing the WIN Entertainment Centre; The Screaming Jets, Bluejuice, The Tea Party, NOFX and Dragon will hit Waves Nightclub; The Beautiful Girls are at the Unibar; Kate Miller-Heidke, the Doug Anthony All-Stars, James Reyne and the Sydney Comedy Festival are at the IPAC; and Tim Rogers, The Audreys and Missy Higgins play Anita's Theatre. Whew, take your pick!

8.10am - the trampolining craze is taking over the Illawarra, with a new centre to soon take up residence in North Wollongong. The Flip Out franchise, with 15 locations around the country, will open a new spot at 20 Ralph Black Drive in coming weeks. Flip Out formerly had a site at Warrawong that was damaged by fire in February.

8.00am - planning on catching the MTV Video Music Awards today? There might be no Miley Cyrus twerking on Robin Thicke, but reports are flying Beyonce will be bashing out a 15-minute medley of her last album. MTV executive Amy Doyle teased “Beyoncé’s performance is very ambitious. I don’t think anyone’s tried this before. We’re expecting this to go down in VMAs history.”

7.57am - in festival news closer to home, the Yours & Owls bash at Stuart Park is almost sold out. Happening on October 4, and headlined by Triple J favourites Dune Rats, Sticky Fingers, Safia and The Griswolds, tickets are apparently almost gone. Get yours here quick sticks!

7.55am - the best way to tell when the warmer months are fast approaching? The release of summer music festival lineups. The artist bills for Falls Festival, Soundwave, Beyond The Valley, Meredith Music Festival and Festival Of The Sun have all been unveiled in the last week or so, providing a veritable feast for music lovers. Start booking in your holidays!

7.49am - Your Monday news headlines look like this:

* Mount Keira Road is finally reopening to traffic this morning, with a 400-metre section between the scout camp and Byarong Park to be officially open for business from 8am today - in 10 minutes! Will there be cake and a ribbon-cutting at the starting line? A queue of cars waiting to be the first to cross? Probably not.

* The local netball community is in mourning today after popular Fairy Meadow player Beth Leske collapsed during a game at Fred Finch Park on Saturday, and later died in hospital. 

* Keira MP Ryan Park is personally writing to local residents calling for information on a spate of graffiti attacks in Bellambi.

* Police are appealing for public info on an incident in Shellharbour early on Saturday morning, where two men were put in hospital after an assault in Mary Street. Police are also searching for a knife-wielding robber who held up a Woonona bottle shop on Saturday night.

7.45am - welcome to a more reasonable time of the morning! If you're just waking up, let's recap what you need to know today:

WEATHER Wollongong skies will be partly cloudy today, with isolated showers developing later, and light winds. Rain is all around today, so break out the umbrella if you're venturing outdoors

TRAFFIC An accident on the M1 at Bellambi Creek seems to have cleared, and roads are otherwise clear Let us know if you see any other dramas on your travels this morning

TRAINS Good service on all train lines today

7.27am - BREAKING: Beloved movie star Richard Attenborough has died. The BBC is reporting the 90-year-old died on Sunday. The star of Jurassic Park and Miracle On 34th Street, Attenborough had been confined to a wheelchair since suffering a stroke six years ago.

7.25am - Not even at work yet, and already thinking about what you'll do come knock-off time? Yours truly went along to see British comedy The Inbetweeners on Saturday night - rude and crude and very funny, the young adult film is set mostly in Byron Bay as four English guys take a gap year in Australia. Watch for an unforgettable scene involving a water park, a dead dolphin and some irritable bowel syndrome.

7.18am - San Francisco and the Napa Valley in California have been rocked by a 6.0 scale earthquake, injuring more than 100 people and leaving over 40,000 homes without power. Californian residents, to whom earthquakes are no big deal - seriously, I spent a year living in California and my American friends would routinely sleep through quakes measuring 2.0 or 3.0 on the Richter scale - are now worried about a massive earthquake that seismologists say the region is long overdue for.

7.11am - the ISIS fighter who beheaded journalist James Foley is believed to be 23-year-old UK man Abdel-Majed Abdel Bary, known as Jihadi John. Before leaving home to fight in Syria, Bary was an aspiring rapper known as L Jinny whose music was played on UK radio. More here

6.59am - Queensland WIN News sports reporter Lincoln Humphries has delivered the definitive response to the viral Ice Bucket Challenge. After being nominated to dump water over his head live on air, he instead challenge viewers to remember other charities such as The Cancer Council, The Water Project and The Red Cross.

"Instead of pouring fresh water and wasting ice over your own head, here's a list of charities and communities in desperate need of fresh drinking water," he said.

"Ice is for keeping fresh produce fresh, beers cold and nipples hard," he said. 

Over to you, Geoff Phillips and the Illawarra WIN News team

6.52am - Soccer (football for your purists) is a funny game. Rugby league is held up by streakers, but the weekend's Spanish league game between Barcelona and Elche was held up for several minutes by an unscheduled pitch invasion from a black cat. Barcelona won 3-0, putting to bed any notions of black cats being bad luck.

6.48am - it's the last Monday of winter! How good is it. The weather is starting to warm a little, and the forecast says the weekend will be sunny skies again. Summer can't come soon enough!

6.41am - LOCAL SPORT 

*What's going on with the Dragons lately? Couldn't buy a win a few weeks ago, but they've won a few on the trot and are starting to look the goods under newly appointed coach Paul McGregor. They've been playing havoc with my footy tipping results - my philosophy was "always back the local team" and they kept getting beaten, so I scrapped that strategy a few weeks ago and tipped against them in the last few games and they've come out firing since. I don't want to say my footy tipping predictions are the deciding factor in their turnaround, but....

* Thirroul won the Illawarra Coal League major semi-final against Helensburgh yesterday, with former Dragons star Nathan Fien slotting a field goal in extra time for a 19-18 win. The Butchers are straight into the grand final, while the 'Burgh are into a sudden-death game against Wests this weekend.

* Bulli are a game away from winning the Illawarra Premier League championship after a 1-1 draw with South Coast United on Saturday put them three points ahead at the top of the table

6.35am - this live blog isn't enough Morning Rush for you? Need more Rush in your life? Today's your lucky day! We've just launched a new Mercury e-newsletter, which will deliver all the best local news right to your email inbox. Sign up today and go into the draw for $500 cash! If you feel obliged to share your winnings with this reporter who let you know about the offer, please feel free to do so.

6.25am - finalists in the Mercury's photo calendar competition have been announced. Check them out here, and vote for your favourites to help them take home $500 and a snazzy new Canon camera. The best ones will feature in our 2015 calendar, which you will be able to buy from newsagents soon. 

6.15am - Let's take a look at some national news, courtesy of the Sydney Morning Herald

* Train commuters are being warned they may face delays at the ticket window from next week, with Weekly MyTrain tickets and adult off-peak return tickets to no longer be sold from next Monday. The state government is encouraging travellers to sign on for the Opal card to avoid long waits.

* It's still officially winter but the Rural Fire Service is already looking toward summer. They are warning of an "above average" fire season, and the number of councils set to bring forward their bushfire warning season will double this year.

* Avalon may become Sydney's first plastic bag-free suburb with an initiative from the Surfrider Foundation aiming to institute an operation to make reusable bags from old sheets, doona covers and offcuts.

6.07am - Need some news headlines over your morning Corn Flakes? Funny you should ask!

* Mount Keira Road is finally reopening to traffic this morning, with a 400-metre section between the scout camp and Byarong Park to be officially open for business from 8am today. Who will be the lucky first to drive on it? Oooh.

* The local netball community is in mourning today after popular Fairy Meadow player Beth Leske collapsed during a game at Fred Finch Park on Saturday, and later died in hospital. Mercury reporter Jodie Duffy has penned a moving tribute to the 27-year-old.

* The inaugural Froth and Bubbles beer and cider festival at the WIN Entertainment Centre was a hit over the weekend, with thousands cramming in to wet their whistles with bevvies from 35 brewers. Mercury journo Bree Fuller reports there was not a single pair of stubbies in sight.

* And the unpredictable Dragons kept their NRL finals hopes alive with a thumping win over the Titans at Kogarah yesterday. A Benji Marshall/Josh Dugan double act set up St George Illawarra for the big 34-6 win.

6.00am - A peek at how your morning is shaping up

WEATHER Wollongong skies will be partly cloudy today, with isolated showers developing later, and light winds. This reporter can also confirm that, although the sun is not up yet, it's surprisingly not-cold this morning. If you're travelling to Sydney or beyond today, showers are all around so bring your brolly

TRAFFIC Reports of an accident on the M1 at Bellambi Creek, affecting southbound traffic on the Princes Motorway. Emergency services and RMS are on the scene and there is debris on the road, so be careful around that way. Other than that, roads are clear! Let us know if you see any other dramas on your travels this morning

TRAINS Good service on all train lines today

5.39am - Morning all, and welcome to your Monday Morning Rush! It is Josh Butler here on the early shift, and I'll be here with you until 9am giving you the rundown on everything you need to know for the LAST MONDAY OF WINTER (just let that glorious milestone sink in for a minute).

It's currently 5.39am - full disclosure, in my 24 years on this Earth, this is the first time I've ever been at work at 5.39am, so apologies in advance for any incoherence. Today is also the first time the Rush has been hosted by one of the boys in the Merc office, so it's a big day of first-times for everyone. So, fueled by energy drinks and Pop Tarts, here comes your Monday Rush!

If you want to give us a news tip, share some info or upcoming event with your fellow Morning Rushers, let us know of traffic or other incidents causing havoc this morning, or just have a chat to keep yours truly awake through until 9am, give me a call on 4221 2311 or email joshua.butler@illawarramercury.com.au

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