Queensland's media have managed to ruffle the feathers of Roosters coach Trent Robinson, who declared a mocking front page of the Townsville Bulletin "disrespectful" to retiring club legend Anthony Minichiello.
A day after coach Paul Green was fined $10,000 for questioning the integrity of the match review committee over the grading of a Tariq Sims shoulder charge, Robinson called out the Cowboys as trying to engineer a 'siege mentality' ahead of Friday night's sudden death semi final against the Roosters.
Normally unflappable, Robinson took exception to Thursday's front page of the local Townsville newspaper, which ran the headline 'Cook the Chooks' alongside a Photoshopped image of Minichiello's face atop a roast chicken in a Roosters jersey.
"There's been a bit of talk about disrespect in the last week," Robinson said.
"It's nothing to do with the Cowboys, but the way they've built it up there, I think they're having a go at Mini. They've got him as a chook on the front page of their paper.
"A guy that's just played 300 games and [is] about to retire. The disrespect that they've shown by going down that road, they've definitely tried to build it up in North Queensland.
"They're coming down to Sydney and we'll be ready to play."
Despite the gibe being tailor-made for it, Robinson said the Roosters would not be using the image as extra motivation for the do-or-die clash.
"It doesn't get mentioned, that stuff," Robinson said.
"We're not a team that posts stuff up on boards. We try and play our game tough and in a way that we want to win and respect the people around us. That stuff doesn't go down well.
"We're trying to do well in the competition but also respect the finish of Mini's career. I think people around him get hurt a bit more than he does."
Robinson's comments come as the Cowboys are again at loggerheads with the NRL for the third September in a row.
Despite Green declaring in April, "There'll be no talking about 'poor Cowboys, the world is against us'" after refereeing blunders cruelled their past two finals campaigns, the North Queensland coach took aim at the match review committee over Sims' five-match ban for his hit on Broncos captain Justin Hodges.
When asked whether Green's remark that he had "no faith in the consistency of the judiciary" was an attempt to build an 'us versus them' mentality for the Cowboys, Robinson replied:
"I think so. I don't know why Paul did it. That's his choice. I think it was a shoulder charge. Whether it was five weeks or three weeks, it was going to get charged. I think they're trying to get themselves ready, and as they should for the game."
With every game from here on potentially the last for star back-rower Sonny Bill Williams before his defection to the 15-man game at the end of the year, Robinson expects to see the Kiwi dual international at his damaging best.
"I think Sonny rises to challenges, and that's where we're at at the moment," he said.
"It's either go home or continue on. I'd expect us to rise to the challenge and especially our leaders, they need to make sure they go up to another level in these types of games, and Sonny's proven that."
Robinson did admit his surprise at speculation the Cowboys would use hulking 21-year-old second-rower Jason Taumalolo – once hailed as the next SBW – to target the Roosters big man. He also warned the ploy could backfire on the visitors given Williams' penchant for personal battles on the big stage.
"It's hard when they play opposite sides, that would be a start," Robinson said.
"But that kid can play. He's an outstanding player and some of the stuff that has been written about his is right. We have to be careful of him.
"If you follow Sonny's career, the challenges are the things that he goes for. He sets his sights on big moments, big games, big matchups and he performs.
"His whole sporting career has been set around challenging himself and he's risen to that time after time."