Members must have their say in electing a new NSW Labor leader after Jodi McKay was "forced out" of the position, her predecessor and potential successor Michael Daley says.
After defiantly staring down threats to the party leadership for six days, Ms McKay abruptly fell on her sword on Friday, leaving the top job vacant.
No one has formally put up their hand for the role, with caucus members negotiating in the hope of avoiding a bruising and lengthy leadership contest.
That would require only one candidate putting themselves forward.
But Mr Daley on Saturday has given his strongest indication that won't happen, and he'll force the party to hold a ballot.
"Sorry to have seen that Jodi was forced out," tweeted Mr Daley, who led the party for four months before its 2019 election loss.
"Members must get their say on their next leader.
"More to say soon."
Ms McKay on Friday said she was not asked to resign, but made it clear she was quitting under duress and accused others of internal "destabilisation".
Privately and publicly, Ms McKay's allies say the leader has been white-anted.
"If a ballot was held today I can tell you I would win," the 51-year-old, who had been opposition leader since mid-2019, tearfully told reporters.
"It is clear that although I was elected in a democratic ballot there are those within our party that have never accepted the outcome of that process."
The leadership ambitions of former shadow transport minister and Ms McKay's 2019 ballot rival Chris Minns are no secret.
But with Mr Daley now back in the mix, unless either man backs down a ballot will be needed.
Since 2013, Labor party rules require that the caucus and the rank-and-file members vote to elect a leader if more than one person contends.
That would likely leave the party in turmoil for weeks, and without a leader when the Berejiklian government hands down its budget in late June.
But federal opposition leader Anthony Albanese said he was unperturbed by NSW Labor's leadership dilemma, and backed the party to "sort these issues through".
The relevance of last week's Upper Hunter by-election result was greatly overstated, he said, given Labor's lack of success in the electorate spanned many decades.
Labor's first-preference vote slipped back from 29 to 21 per cent.
"It should've come as no surprise that Upper Hunter voted the way it has for more than nine decades," Mr Albanese told reporters on Saturday.
Mr Albanese maintained Labor could spring a surprise by winning the next NSW election in 2023 - despite the benefits of incumbency that have flowed to the coalition government throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
"NSW Labor can win the next election," he said.
"This is a government in NSW that has been complacent, an arrogant government that has used taxpayer money as if it is their own."
On Friday, Ms McKay called on the party to support the next Labor leader, adding she would remain on the back bench as Strathfield MP.
Adam Searle, who leads the opposition in the upper house, is acting leader.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian said on Saturday Labor was struggling on several fronts.
"The Labor Party is floundering at a federal level and in some states like mine because it's the Liberal Party that's the party of the worker, that supports people who employ, who want to work hard and get ahead, and people who want a better life for themselves than perhaps their parents or grandparents may have had."