BOURNEMOUTH head coach Will Croker revealed skipper Joe Rees would monitor an ongoing shoulder problem rather than opting for an operation.

The talismanic number eight had been playing through the pain barrier to help Lions finish second in South West Premier.

With the campaign now complete, the Bournemouth ace has decided not to undergo surgery in the immediate future.

Croker told the Daily Echo: “Joe has told me for the time being he is not going to have the op. When the scan came back, it allowed our medical team to have a closer look at it.

“He has been able to manage the injury a lot better because we now know exactly what it is. I think he will put it off in the short term and we will assess how he starts next season.

“It is cartilage which is the major problem in his shoulder. He is going to try to put some strength around it, have a good summer and, hopefully, come back and have it protected a little better.

“Once you have the op it would be around six to eight months recovery and we would have probably lost him for the season.

“He has been a sensational role model and the players look up to him. For us to have him available all next season is a big deal."

Rees started for the 125th time as Lions were defeated in their play-off against Guernsey Raiders last month.

And Croker admitted the club favourite had in the past rejected offers from elsewhere in order to remain at Chapel Gate.

“Joe is phenomenal,” added Croker. “He comes from the other side of the Isle of Wight to train on Tuesdays and Thursdays and play on Saturdays.

“Him and his girlfriend have actually just bought a house in Bournemouth but for five seasons he did that commute.

“For away games, when we had to leave at 9am, he had been getting up at 4.30am to go on the first ferry so he could get here in time.

“He has been offered moves to Chichester, Bracknell and Havant and has always turned them down because he absolutely loves Bournemouth Rugby.”

Meanwhile, scrum-half Sam Hardcastle was named Lions players’ player of the year at their end-of-season awards.

Player of the year went to Scott Chislett, most improved was Dan Stewart and best newcomer was Richard Sharp.