Derby's demise forces Jets into global scramble

Airline tickets will be the biggest item on Chester Jets credit card bill this week, as they pull the core of their team back from the other side of the world to face London Towers in Saturday's quarter-finals of the Dairylea Dunkers championships at Coventry's Skydome.

Pero Cameron and Terrence Lewis are in their native New Zealand, Greg Francis is in Canada and James Hamilton, according to the coach, Robbie Peers, is "night-clubbing somewhere in Europe".

The Jets were so convinced their play-off hopes were dead two weeks ago that they booked their foreign players on flights home. The Jets needed to win their last four northern conference games - including one against the champions, Manchester Giants - to snatch fourth place in the conference.

They also needed Derby Storm to extend their losing streak up to their final game at Newcastle Eagles on Saturday night and they duly obliged, losing 94-81 to complete a run of eight defeats in their last 10 as jubilant Chester fans watched.

"Whatever it takes to get the players back, we'll do it," said the Jets' former coach, Mike Burton, now assistant to his protégé, Peers. "I'm delighted for Robbie. He's made the play-offs in his second season as coach and it took me donkeys' years."

Peers said: "We'll have to round them up and start training again on Thursday. It's unfortunate for Derby, who were playing like worldbeaters at the start of the season, but it's a fairy-tale for us."

While Chester's players begin to arrive at English airports, there is a suspicion that Derby's lack of motivation in recent weeks stemmed from some of their players being eager to fly in the opposite direction to attend training camps for USBL clubs in America.

QUARTER-FINAL LINE-UP (Coventry SkyDome, 15 April): Manchester Giants v Milton Keynes Lions (11.15), London Towers v Chester Jets (1.30), Sheffield Sharks v Birmingham Bullets (3.45), Thames Valley Tigers v Edinburgh Rocks (6.0).

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