Oliver Gildart admits it will be a “weird” feeling watching four other teams battle it out for places at Old Trafford.
Wigan have been Grand Finalists for the last FOUR years and – trailing back further – the last time they failed to reach the play-offs was in 2006, when Gildart had just started high school.
Table-toppers Castleford will play St Helens on Thursday night before Leeds host Hull FC 24 hours later to decide who will be in this year’s title-decider.
Gildart said: “It’s going to be weird watching because every year I’ve been in the team, we’ve been to the Grand Final.
“But we got what we deserved at the end of the day, and we’ve not been good enough.
“There’s nothing we can do about it now but rest up and make sure we come back better.”
Wigan headed into their final game at Wakefield on Saturday knowing it was ‘dead rubber’. And it showed in their performance as they limped to a 32-0 defeat.
“It was a first for me and for many of the lads, not having a ‘must win’ game at the end of the season,” Gildart continued.
“We had nothing to play for but we’re professional and we should have played better than we did.
“It was a poor way to go out. Wakefield gave us a good hiding. It’s been a frustrating year.”
The centre, shortlisted for the Super League Young Player of the Year award, believes injuries earlier in the year left them with too much ground to make up as they chased a play-offs spot.
Wigan climbed from eighth to third with a streak which saw them lose just two of 11 Super League matches, before their hopes evaporated with a defeat against Castleford in their penultimate game.
“The injuries earlier in the year hurt us,” he said. “There were positives to come from it – look at the way Marshy (Liam Marshall) and Tom Davies have come on. But in the last block of fixtures we only lost a couple of games, and if we’d had a full team all year it might have been different, but it wasn’t to be.”
Rugby manager, and club director, Kris Radlinski addressed the players in the dressing room after Saturday’s final game.
“Rads said you’ve got to have dark days to appreciate the good days, that this pain now makes us realise how special the big wins are,” added Gildart.