In a radio interview in July 2006 on the Coodabeen Champions Flower stated that the club secretary Jim Cardwell rang to offer him the number 2 guernsey before his first senior game, an unofficial statement that the club saw great potential in the seventeen-year-old.
Known as "Tulip", he was a wingman for most of his career and was characterised by his ability to create space for himself and kick and handpass the ball with extraordinary accuracy. He possessed speed, sure-footedness and unrivalled tactical awareness.
In Ken Piesse's The Complete Guide to Australian Football, Flower's player summary quotes Brent Crosswell "...beat Flower and you could just about retire from League Football because anything else smacked of anti-climax." Wayne Schimmelbusch in the same publication said: "I paid more attention to Robert Flower than any other opponent."
Jim Main and Russell Holmesby mention Flower's thin physique and low playing weight—68 kilograms. It was assumed early in his career that he could not succeed because of his "wiry" frame. He sustained injuries that kept him from appearing in another 52 games but he still played 272 out of a possible 324 games and was never omitted from the senior side when available.
Towards the end of the 1986 season, as Flower completed his 14th season without playing in a final, the Melbourne Football Club placed newspaper advertisements requesting donations from the public to enable the club to recruit a high profile player under the headline "Please give Robbie one last chance to play in a final". Despite raising less money than expected, Melbourne did reach the 1987 finals after a dramatic final round.
His final three games were the only time Flower played in the finals. His last game was against Hawthorn in the preliminary final. Although Melbourne had led the entire match, a free kick and a fifteen metre penalty awarded after the final siren saw Hawthorn's Gary Buckenara kick the winning goal. Flower recalls in his autobiography Robbie that he started to run from the ground and paused to see the ball go through the goal and then went to the dressing rooms where he threw a can of drink against the wall in anger. Flower was injured in the game and his ability to play in the Grand Final, had Melbourne won, was not certain.