North Queensland superstar Johnathan Thurston has lit the fuse ahead of Friday's semi-final blockbuster after labelling Manly the biggest sledgers and nigglers in the NRL.
"They're always going to have players in there that have that niggle, when you've got the ball in your hands and when you don't," Thurston said on Wednesday.
"We'll be expecting that, that's what Manly's known to do and that's what they're known for."
Asked if the Sea Eagles are the best 'nigglers' in the competition, Thurston replied: "Yeah you could probably say that.
"No doubt they're one of the best teams at getting under the opposition's skin.
"From past experiences playing Manly that's what they always do.
"They've got players there that always try and get under your skin. It's just how you handle it, obviously you need to stay composed."
Manly coach Geoff Toovey rejected Thurston's comments, accusing the Cowboys No.7 of playing his own mind games.
"He's probably just trying to gain advantage there," Toovey said.
"I don't think we've got smart enough blokes in the side to do the niggle.
"I've got no comment really ... look, both sides are very competitive and any side in the NRL is competitive and if you can gain an advantage I'm sure they'll do it.
"But I think our players will be much more experienced and cool headed so that won't bother us too much."
North Queensland have lost their last three clashes against Manly including an 8-6 defeat in Townsville a month ago and a 42-8 qualifying final thumping to end their 2011 campaign.
Thurston admits last year's heavy loss still stings but is confident this year's Cowboys can exact revenge on Friday night.
"No doubt it still hurts a bit but I'd have to say we're in a much better position than we were last year," he said.
"We've had five wins on the trot now so there's a lot of momentum behind us.
"The boys are playing confidently and everyone's doing their job and when we're doing that we're hard to beat.
"It's going to be a tough ask, they're the reigning premiers but we're confident if we play to the best of our ability we'll get the job done."