Football Australia mourns the passing of former Socceroo, Stephen Laybutt

Football Australia is deeply saddened to hear of the passing of former Socceroo cap #444, Stephen Laybutt. A Socceroo and 2000 Olympian Stephen Laybutt was raised in Wollongong where he played at Albion Park juniors.

A graduate of the Australian Institute of Sport, Laybutt was a skilled centre back who proudly represented the Australian Men’s Senior National Team from 2000 to 2004. Throughout 1999 and 2000 he played concurrently with the Australian Under-23 Men’s National Team and Australian Men’s National Team.

Laybutt made a significant impact with 18 appearances for the Socceroos, making his A International debut in early 2000 against Chile in Valparaiso and subsequently playing crucial roles in the team’s victories at the 2000 and 2004 Oceania Football Confederation (OFC) Nations Cup, where Australia triumphed in both tournaments. Laybutt also represented the Australian Men’s Under-23 side from 1998 to 2000, featuring in all three of Australia’s group stage matches at the Sydney 2000 Summer Olympics on home soil.

Starting his career in the National Soccer League (NSL) with the Wollongong Wolves (1995-1997) and then the Brisbane Strikers (1997-1999), Laybutt showcased his talent, accumulating 29 and 68 appearances, respectively. His journey extended to Bellmare Hiratsuka in Japan (1999), where he added 10 more appearances to his professional record followed by a brief stint with Parramatta Power.

In 2000, Laybutt made the move to Dutch giants Feyenoord marking the start of his European venture which also saw him playing for Roosendaal in the Netherlands and Lyn Oslo in Norway. In the same year, he would make his debut for the Australian Men’s National Team under the tutelage of Frank Farina, scoring his lone goal for the Socceroos, volleying in the opener against Hungary in a memorable 3-0 victory in Budapest.

The year 2002 saw Laybutt's return to Australia, donning the colours of Sydney Olympic (2002, 12 appearances) and making a comeback to the Brisbane Strikers (2002-2003, 22 appearances). His standout performances captured the attention of Belgian clubs, leading to stints with Excelsior Mouscron (2003-2004, 30 appearances) and Gent (2004-2007, 70 appearances).

Steve Laybutt of Australia tackles Tuncay Sanli of Turkey during the Australia v Turkey friendly international soccer match as part of the 2006 World Cup preparations at Aussie Stadium May 21, 2004

A homecoming then awaited Laybutt in the A-League, as he joined the Newcastle Jets in 2007, but unfortunately, injuries curtailed his professional career in 2008. Laybutt’s 114 Australian National Soccer League matches included an appearance for Sydney Olympic in the 2002 NSL Grand Final, a 1-0 win over Perth Glory.

James Johnson, CEO of Football Australia, said: "Today, we mourn the loss of former Socceroo Stephen Laybutt. Stephen's journey from domestic leagues to the international stage exemplified dedication, skill, and the spirit of Australian football. His contributions to the Socceroos, especially during the OFC Nations Cup victories and the Sydney 2000 Olympics, have left a lasting legacy in our football community. We remember Stephen not just for his accomplishments on the field but also for his character and the positive influence he had on those around him. He will forever be remembered as part of the Socceroos family and will be deeply missed. Our thoughts are with his family and friends during this difficult time."

Anter Isaac, Chair of Football Australia, added: "The passing of Stephen Laybutt is a profound loss for the football community in Australia and beyond. Stephen represented the very best of Australian football - talent, perseverance, and a commitment to excellence. His memorable performances for the Socceroos and his significant role in pivotal victories will forever be etched in the annals of our football history. On behalf of Football Australia, I extend our heartfelt condolences to Stephen's family, friends, and former teammates. We stand together in honouring his remarkable life and career. Stephen's legacy will continue to inspire future generations of Australian footballers."

Football Australia and the Socceroos family extend their deepest condolences to Stephen Laybutt's loved ones during this sad time.