So dominant have Wigan, St Helens, Bradford and Leeds been during the era since play-offs were introduced that failing to be involved has looked like a doomsday scenario.
Now that Wigan are on the brink of that happening, however, the prospect does not look half as unpalatable. Nobody at the club would say publicly that they are glad not to be there, but that is the mood of many.
At their home defeat by St Helens last week, their chairman, Maurice Lindsay, was brandishing a sheet of paper. It was quite a large sheet and it was covered in names; it was a list of players who, for one reason or another, would not be available for the rest of the season, however long that might be.
Since then, two more names have been added, with David Vaealiki and Martin Aspinwall both in need of knee operations.
It will, therefore, be another patched-up Wigan side that takes the field at Huddersfield this afternoon, knowing that only a shock result at London can extend their season.
The Broncos - in their final game under that name and their farewell to Griffin Park - only need to beat the already relegated Widnes to confirm sixth place, unless Wigan can close a 58-point difference in their scoring records.
With Rob Purdham, Steve Trindall and especially Mark McLinden all available again, there is no reason to expect that London will slip up and, although their season has had its ups and downs, they deserve their place in the play-offs at the end of a traumatic season off the field.
For Wigan, it is a case of rebuilding for next season, of getting players like Sean O'Loughlin and Gareth Hock back on the field and completing a further round of comings and goings that will give Ian Millward something closer to the squad he wants.
If they can start 2006 in better health, this season's relative failure will not look too disastrous.Reuse content