Matt Burton ranked Sunday's thumping win against South Sydney among the most special of his young career as the Dubbo boy returned home and scored three tries.
It was as though the Penrith centre was back playing a junior game at Apex Oval, where he featured in several local grand finals, with the Panthers running roughshod over the Rabbitohs in a stunning 56-12 victory.
Halfback Nathan Cleary likely inched closer to the Dally M Medal with a 28-point haul, including two tries, and five-eighth Jarome Luai enhanced his NSW State of Origin claims by outplaying Cody Walker.
But the afternoon belonged to Burton who, along with fellow Dubbo product Isaah Yeo, had plenty of fans in the 10,824-strong crowd.
"To come back to the home town and put on a performance like that is pretty special," said Burton, who racked up 152 metres, three line-breaks and a try assist to go with his first NRL hat-trick.
Match: Rabbitohs v Panthers
Round 11 -
Venue: Apex Oval, Dubbo
"I can't believe it ... You dream of it as a kid, to play footy at your home town. But to do it in the NRL, there's no better feeling.
"Walking back there [after a scoring a try] and everyone's yelling out your name, it just gives you chills."
Burton said he last played at Apex Oval in 2018 when he faced off against his Penrith teammate Charlies Staines, a Forbes junior, in the local under-18s and first-grade grand finals - and lost both.
While Burton has signed for the Bulldogs next year as a five-eighth, which he reiterated is his preferred role, Panthers coach Ivan Cleary tried in vain to convince him to stay as an outside back.
The day just gets better and better for Burton
"I'm not sure he's out of position from what I can see," Cleary said.
"He's a good player. Obviously, he can play in the halves, but he's looking pretty good out there.
"We made a real attempt to sign him as a centre."
Despite star fullback Latrell Mitchell's timely return from a four-week suspension, the Rabbitohs – who were on the wrong end of a 12-8 penalty count – lacked rhythm from the opening whistle.
The damage was done by a relentless first-half onslaught in which the undefeated Panthers posted five tries.
Many tipped South Sydney to challenge for the premiership after losing to Penrith in last year's preliminary final, but the Wayne Bennett-coached team are yet to beat another top-four outfit this season and were shellacked 50-0 by Melbourne only a fortnight ago.
Mitchell's impact was limited though he ran for more than 100 metres and created a try.
Cleary beats Walker and Mitchell for his second
The Panthers, meanwhile, dominated without their regular fullback Dylan Edwards (hamstring injury).
South Sydney winger Josh Mansour had an unhappy time against his ex-club, scoring a try but having Burton wreaking havoc down his edge before leaving the field late in the second half due to a head knock.
Walker bagged the Rabbitohs' other four-pointer.