They could be called the `also-Wrans’.
NSW has had five premiers in the past 11 years.
Iemma, Rees, Keneally, O’Farrell and Baird.
None of them – and few politicians in Australian history – have compared to Neville Kenneth Wran, who led the first state for 10 years and 51 days between 1976 and 1986.
The 35th premier of NSW remains – in today’s age of fleeting NSW leadership – an enduring light upon the hill; a hardy waratah in what for many has become a garden of weeds.
And his professional legacy is still blossoming.
“I think Wran is the most visionary premier we’ve had since Governor Lachlan Macquarie 150 years before,” said his former adviser David Hill.
“I can’t think of anybody who introduced such a broad scale of worthwhile social reforms and invested in much-needed social infrastructure.
“It’s as if everything stopped when Wran quit.”
Wran died on Sunday night at Lulworth House nursing home in Elizabeth Bay after a battle with dementia.
He was 87 and will be given a state funeral.
The boy from Balmain was not perfect of course.
He had his troubles, both personal and professional.
Key among them was his appearance at a 1983 Royal Commission into allegations of corruption within rugby league.
The ABC’s Four Corners program alleged Wran interfered in committal proceedings against former NSW Rugby League chief Kevin Humphreys, who was accused of defrauding Balmain Leagues Club.
The premier was cleared of any wrongdoing by Chief Justice Sir Laurence Street, but he later described it as the low point of his political career, remarking that “Some of the mud will eventually stick.”
He stood down as premier for three months during the commission, defiantly telling the NSW Labor Conference “Balmain boys don’t cry.”
His many high points were characterised by bold social reforms.
He was an eco warrior before it became fashionable – helping to kickstart today’s focus on a better environment.
Wran was a campaigner for gay rights – a founding father in some respects for today’s campaign for gay marriage.
He introduced seatbelt laws, breath test laws, he helped reform railway safety following the deadly Granville train disaster a year into his premiership.
Wran orchestrated the redevelopment of Darling Harbour and the building of the Sydney Entertainment Centre.
“He had a heart of gold and he achieved more than any state premier that we’ve seen anywhere in Australia for the last 30 years,” Mr Hill added.
Bob Carr, who surpassed Mr Wran’s record as the longest continuous service as NSW premier, said Mr Wran set a template for successful Labor leaders after him, including prime ministers Bob Hawke and Paul Keating.
“He was a master politician. He taught contemporary Labor a great deal,” Mr Carr told Sky News.
Wran was born in Paddington, the youngest of eight children, the son of a labourer.
His family moved to a terraced Balmain house when Neville was still young and he later studied at Sydney University.
He joined the Labor Party aged 27 and became a lawyer in his early thirties.
The working class boy did good.
Wran’s political career began in 1970 when he was elected to the NSW upper house.
He moved to the lower house three years later after winning the Sydney seat of Bass Hill.
Wran won the Labor leadership in 1972 and the party narrowly won the 1976 election.
Following his death, Prime Minister Tony Abbott described Wran as one of the most significant figures of his generation.
“Neville Wran made his mark on NSW and Australia,” Mr Abbott said.
His wife, Jill Hickson, said death had come as a blessed release for her husband, “a great man, a true political hero”.
NSW Premier Mike Baird said Mr Wran was a towering figure in the NSW Labor Party.
“His legacy is positive and lasting,” he said.