Lisa Camilleri in action against New Zealand at the Commonwealth Games in Dehi in 2010.
The Backyard Birdies have landed
Here at Village Buzz we heard through the grapevine that professional squash player Lisa Camilleri was retiring after a long career so we popped along to have a chat about that and her future plans.
An Everton Park local, Lisa achieved a top ranking of 28th in the world after winning 21 international titles, representing Australia on a number of occasions and following the squash circuit for 11 years after turning professional at the age of 18.
She recalls being around squash courts from a very early age after her mum Pauline, a keen tennis player, decided to take it up to get indoors and out of the Queensland heat. She had her first squash lessons at the age of eight when she also won the Queensland title in her age group – a feat she was to repeat every year from then until she turned 19.
In 2001 she earned a scholarship to the Australian Institute of Sport's Brisbane's squash unit where she lived in accommodation they provided and trained for more than four hours a day as well as receiving instruction in sports nutrition and even in how to cook.
In fact, she said, the AIS provided everything that an athlete could possibly need to attain their goal including access to a sports psychologist to refine and develop the mental capacity to compete and win at elite level in their chosen sports.
After turning professional she would enter between 15 and 17 tournaments every year on the Professional Squash Association Tour and travelled for 14 years all over the world, often living out of a suitcase but sometimes staying for a time in an area such as New York, New Zealand or Malaysia which was central to a number of tournaments she wanted to enter.
Backyard Birdies Lisa Camilleri and her partner Marcus Donnelly ready to take on the sporting apparel heavyweights.
She achieved her dream of representing Australia when she competed in the Woman's World Championships in 2008 and 2010 and the Commonwealth Games in 2010 and 2014. She also won 21 PSA event titles in her career.
A foot injury in 2011 saw her return to Brisbane for surgery where she took a business course to pass the time during her recovery and this came in very handy later when launching her sporting apparel business.
After recovering she returned to training and also did a stint as a high-performance assistant with Squash Australia where she was responsible for, among other things, sourcing uniforms for the national team.
Decent green and gold uniforms proved unexpectedly difficult to obtain so the idea of designing and sourcing sporting apparel took hold in the minds of Lisa and her partner Marcus Donnelly and they began to offer custom-designed uniforms mainly to squash teams around the world.
Marcus Donnelly, left, and Lisa Camilleri, far right, with their flock of Backyard Birdies brand ambassadors.
Lisa kept in training with the aim of competing in the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games in 2018 but was not selected. She is open about the fact that the news was upsetting to hear but she took the positive view that the time had come to retire, put down her competition racquet, pick up a mobile phone and diary and devote all her energies to promoting the couple's business.
Called Backyard Birdies in honour of the numerous birdies who regularly visit their backyard, the business offers a variety of off-the-shelf and custom-designed apparel for sports teams and commercial/charity organisations through their online store as well as some health products.
Lisa is thankfully not lost to the world of squash and teaches a Monday session for children at Stafford Squash Centre in Kitchener Road. She is also available on request for adults’ one-on-one lessons at the centre.