MANLY coach Geoff Toovey has rubbished claims the Sea Eagles rank among the best verbal agitators in the NRL, saying his charges aren't smart enough to perform the tactic.
Manly face North Queensland tomorrow in a sudden-death semi-final clash at Allianz Stadium, and Cowboys captain Johnathan Thurston yesterday said he was bracing for plenty of niggle from the reigning premiers.
"From past experiences playing Manly, that's what they always do," Thurston said. "They've got players there that always try and get under your skin. It's just how you handle it. You need to stay composed.
"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.
"We'll be expecting that.
"They're one of the best teams at getting under the other team's skin."
Toovey, however, dismissed Thurston's comments and said while being competitive, his players didn't have the smarts to verbally provoke their opponents.
"He's probably just trying to gain some sort of advantage there," Toovey said of Thurston's comments.
"I don't think we've got smart enough blokes in this side to do the niggle.
"Look, both sides are very competitive and if you can gain an advantage I'm sure they'll do it.
"[Canterbury hooker] Michael Ennis is very good at it and tries to get an advantage with it, but I think our players will be much more experienced and cooler-headed."
Meanwhile, Manly received a huge boost yesterday with injured co-captain Jamie Lyon looking set to be fit for tomorrow's do-or-die clash.
Lyon suffered a calf strain in last week's 16-10 qualifying final loss to the Bulldogs but Toovey said the star centre's recovery was progressing better than expected.
"He had a run today, he's obviously a bit sore but we're pretty confident he'll be OK for tomorrow's training session and for Friday," Toovey said after training yesterday.
"He's improving every day and we're quietly confident he'll be OK for Friday."
The loss of Lyon would be a massive blow for Manly, who have a poor record without the inspirational centre, winning just a third of matches since 2010 in his absence.
Toovey said even if Lyon hadn't fully recovered by tomorrow he would probably still play him given the importance of the clash.
"Well, it's a do-or-die," Toovey said.
"It's not a risk thing. He's done the damage on it now. He can't do any more damage to it.
"So it's just a matter of whether he can perform at a reasonable level so he can hopefully help us win the match."