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THE trick to kicking goals is to train smarter, not harder, says Bendigo resident John Burke who was nominated for an illustrious Order of Australia medal. 

Community members nominate fellow citizens for the award who have gone above and beyond in the name of the greater good. 

The recipients are announced on Australia Day. 

John Burke, who has been an athletics coach in Bendigo for 45 years, said he was still in a state of shock.

"Athletics has been in my blood from a young age," he said. 

"I have no idea who nominated me."

Mr Burke has led the way in Bendigo athletics, encouraging junior athletes to reach their goals by training smart. "I felt like I underachieved when I was an athlete," he said.

"I had many injuries due to over-training.

"We would go hard at training and then by race day you would be exhausted. 

Meanwhile, there must be something in the water in Echuca, with three residents nominated for Order of Australia medals. 

Peter Martin, who has been volunteering since he was 25 years old, still cannot believe he was nominated. 

Mr Martin was recognised for his outstanding service to veterans and their families, a contribution he says is the least he can do. 

"Veterans have done so much for our country," he said. 

"This is the least we can do to repay them for that."

The Campaspe Shire, where Echuca is located, has about 1000 veterans who are 70 years and older. 

Mr Martin said the 15-person team was flat out in the office four days a week volunteering to ensure veterans received the support they needed. 

"My team is so fantastic," he said. 

Alan Eley, who has volunteered in the Country Fire Brigade for 38 years, said he was humbled to receive such an illustrious award. 

The 84-year-old is still active in the brigade, where he investigates the cause of fires. 

"I have investigated more than 500 fires," he said.

"Often when I get to a property, the house has already been destroyed, so people are still coming to terms with the impact of the blaze.

"I like being able to investigate, it is comforting for people to know why the fire happened."

Noel Maughan from Echuca also received an OAM.

Mr Maughan has been recognised for his service to the Parliament of Victoria, to agriculture, and to rural health.

A woodend paramedic was recognised for shaping the future of Ambulance Victoria. 

Grant Hocking was awarded the Ambulance Service Medal in the Australia Day Honours List. 

merran.reed@fairfaxmedia.com.au 

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