The VMWare Player BIOS prompt is way too short to allow you to hit Control-G to send input to the VM, and F8 before Windows starts (or to send F2 before the OS boots).
With the latest edition of VMWare Fusion, there is a .VMX setting that will force the BIOS to start (bios.forceSetupOnce = "TRUE"). This will probably show up in the PC/Linux edition eventually, but here's a work-around that I've found.
First, edit your VMX and tell it that your boot drive is NOT present (something like scsi0:0.present = "FALSE").
Then boot your VM. It will fail, and tell you to press Control-alt-delete.
Put your keyboard focus in the VM, and press Control-alt-del, and then start banging on F2.
Once it boots and goes to the BIOS, tell it that it should first attempt to boot from the NIC. This will give you time for Control-G, followed by visually confirming that focus has been set to the VM, followed by F8, before Windows starts.
Finally, edit your VMX and tell it your boot drive is again present.