A ruckman who also played up forward, Dougherty started his career with Carlton Football Club but after two and a half seasons crossed to Geelong where he would play his best football. Dougherty was a key member of Geelong's 1937 premiership winning side, kicking 38 goals for the year and was the starting ruckman in their Grand Final win over Collingwood. In 1940 he polled well in the Brownlow Medal, finishing equal seventh.
Dougherty moved to Footscray in 1942 only to return to Geelong after two years. Dougherty finished his career at South Melbourne where he spent the 1945 season before retiring.