Valley player Owen Davey was quick through his speed test. PHOTO: KAYLA HODGE

Beast mode – activated.

That is the plan for North Otago Rugby, which has launched an elite programme for 10 players to receive additional coaching, fitness testing, gym work and higher-level training.

The 14-week group programme started last week, players doing fitness testing with strength and conditioning coach Glen Sturgess, and rugby and skills training with Heartland coach Jason Forrest.

It was the first season North Otago had run the programme. Forrest hoped it would take the region’s top players to a new level.

“I’m just excited about what we can do with this group. They’re all wanting to be here, and that’s all we ask of them,” he said.

“It’s going to be 10 players for the Heartland side – and that’s huge. We just want to get them into beast mode.”

All of the elite group players had taken to the field for the Old Golds before, except one who recently moved from Auckland, and showed potential.

“We’ve got our captain involved, some that have been around Heartland for a while, and a couple of new guys that are local boys and we just want to put some time into them.”

The group would meet once a week, and have personal gym programmes to complete in their own time. Other guest coaches would be used too.

The response had been fantastic, and there were plenty of other players “knocking on the door” to be involved.

It was limited to 10 club players in its first year.

“They’re all local boys in there, and will hopefully play quite a few more Heartland games.

“That’s sort of what it’s for this year, to make our Heartland team – 10 guys in among that to make us even better and then we’ll introduce school kids.”

The union wanted to make sure it got the programme right, and would bump the numbers up next year, including school and club players.