Robert Shirlaw joined with Joe Fazio, Gary Pearce, John Ranch, David Douglas, Peter Dickson, Michael Morgan, Alf Duval and Alan Grover (cox) to claim the silver medal, behind West Germany, in the men’s eights at Mexico City 1968. This was the best performance by an Australian sweep-oared crew at the Olympic Games until the advent of the Oarsome Foursome at Barcelona 1992. The fast-finishing Australians just failed to catch the highly credentialed West Germans, after leaving other fancied crews, from the USSR and New Zealand, in their wake. The eight rowers from the victorious West German crew went on to carry the Olympic flag into the main stadium during the opening ceremony at Munich 1972. Except for David Douglas, from Victoria, the crew came from the successful NSW outfit that won the 1968 King’s Cup.
Shirlaw also competed at the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games, finishing ninth in the men's coxless pair with Roger Ninham.